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The following Memoirs will give some account of a 
life of singular activity, attended by great successes, 
yet not without vexations and disappointments. The 
latter involved some personal imputations, from which 
it was necessary to vindicate the memory of Sir 
Samuel Bentham ; while the results of his incessant 
labours have tended to diminish the burdens, or to 
add to the resources of the country. To him are to 
be traced some of the most important changes in 
Naval Administration ; and to him we are indebted 
for many inventions which have effected an incal- 
culable saving in pubhc expenditure, as weU as for 
Dockyard and other reforms which closed the 
sources of many long-continued and most pernicious 

Official opposition, which sought to uphold all 
vested interests, prevented him from carrying out 
many things which he had at heart ; while, even in 
what he was enabled to accomplish, he had to 
struggle with the obstacles furnished by a passive 
resistance, and sometimes with personal animosity. 

A 4 



But at this distance of time a plain narrative of his 
intentions and his acts can cause no pain or injury 
to those who may have differed from him or opposed 
him, while they who may personally have known 
and valued him will not regret that a narrative so 
fully justifying all his acts, so clearly attesting the 
wisdom of his conclusions, should be laid before the 
public. Many things which he first asserted to be 
abuses have, since that time, been acknowledged to 
be such ; and if others which he strove to check or to 
suppress still continue, no evil can arise from allow- 
ing his protest to be heard. 

ISTo full account of his position at the Navy Board, 
and with reference to the Admiralty, has yet been 
published. While the following memoir furnishes a 
complete explanation of all the events which preceded 
and accompanied the abolition of his office, and of 
the various motives and influences which animated 
his opponents, this vindication is the more conclu- 
sive, as every statement rests not merely on his own 
assertions in letters and journals, but can be attested 
by public and official documents, as well as by his 
works themselves. 

Few men have followed out the object of their 
lives with such unswerving perseverance ; few haw 
shown greater fertility of invention, a wider range 
of observation, and a keener insight into the adapta- 
tion of means to ends. Few have worked with more 
unwearied energy against difficulties which to men 


of less vigorous mind, and less disinterested integrity, 
would have been overwhelming. 

The task of vindicating his memory from every 
aspersion has been accomplished by his widow, who 
has shown in the following narrative a rare compre- 
hension of the most minute details, as well as of the 
general character of the technical works in which 
her husband was engaged. . If her last years were 
occupied with that which clearly was to her a labour 
of love, her full knowledge of mechanical science, 
and her clear apprehension of the general bearing 
and results of mechanical designs, show at the same 
time that she was actuated by no mere feelings of a 
partial affection. She has defended the acts of her 
husband, where they appeared to need any defence, 
on grounds which can be examined by all acquainted 
with such subjects, and on which they can pronounce 
their judgment whether of approval or disappro- 

The manuscript of this work, which had not 
been corrected throughout at Lady Bentham's death, 
was intrusted to the care of her youngest daughter, 
who, much as she desired to carry out her mother's 
wishes, would have shrunk from the responsibility of 
publishing the Memoirs in their imperfect state, but 
for the kind encouragement which she has received 
from eminent engineers. 


The materials from which the following Memoirs have 
been drawn up, consist, previously to the year 1790, of 
private letters and of parts of a journal kept during travels 
in Siberia and to the frontiers of China; and, after his 
return to England, of his patents ; and, from the time of 
his re-eno-a^ements in the British Service, of official docu- 
ments, and a journal of proceedings, in which were noticed 
transactions with the First Lords of the Admiralty and 
other members of that Board ; as also with other officers 
in the Naval Department, and with the Speaker of the 
House of Commons. For a later period many documents 
have been consulted which may be considered as official^ 
since they are on record at the Admiralty ; but throughout 
the whole nothing is stated which cannot be proved to be 


Sir Samuel Bentham published the following pamphlets, 
now out of print; but in addition to those he had dis- 
tributed, a copy of each was presented by his widow to the 
Libraries of the Admiralty, the War Office, the Great 
Seal Patent Office, the United Service Institution, the 
Kensington Museum, and the Society of Arts : — 

"Naval Papers, containing (1) Correspondence on the Subject of 
various Improvements in His Majesty's Dockyards, and relative 
to the Institution of the Office of Inspector-General of Naval 

" (2) Letters and Papers relative to the Mode of arming Vessels of 

" (3) A Statement of Services rendered in the Civil Department of 
the Navy." 

" Letters on Certain Experimental Vessels, on Contracts for providing 
Naval Stores," &c. 

"Answers to the Objections of the Comptroller of the Navy." 

" Desiderata in a Naval Arsenal, or an Indication of several Particulars 
in the Formation or Improvement of Naval Arsenals ; together 
with a Plan for the Improvement of the Naval Arsenal at 

" Representations on the Causes of Decay in Ships of War, with pro- 
posals for effecting the due Seasoning of Timber," &c. 

" Services rendered in the Civil Department of the Navy, in investi- 
gating Abuses and Imperfections in effecting Improvements in the 
System of Management, the Formation of Naval Arsenals, the 
Construction of Vessels of War, &c. &c. &c. 1813." 

u Letter to Lord Viscount Melville on the real Causes of the Defeat 
of the English Flotilla on the Lake Erie. 1814." 

" Naval Essays ; or Essays on the Management of Public Concerns, 
as exemplified in the Naval Department, considered as a Branch 
of the Business of Warfare. 1828." 

"Financial Reform Scrutinised, in a Letter to Sir Henry Parnell, 
Bart., M.P. 1830." 

" On the Aim and Exercise of Artillery. 1830." 
" Notes on the Naval Encounters of the Rus« iauri and Turks in 1788, 
1829." (United Service Journal.) 

" On the Diminution of Expenditure without impairing the Efficiency 
of the Naval and Military Establishments." (Ibid.) 

"Breakwaters. — Sir Samuel Bentham's Plans. 1814." (Mechanic's 



Birth and Parentage of Samuel Bentham — Education at Westminster 
School — Apprenticeship under the Master-Shipwright of Woolwich 
Dockyard — He is removed to Chatham Yard — Proposal to the Navy 
Board for an improved Chain Pump — Eesidence at Caen — Return to 
London — Introduction to Sir Hugh Palliser, and Captain Jarvis, after- 
wards Lord St. Vincent — Offer from Captain Bazely of H.M.S. Nymph 
declined — Leaves England, August, 1779; visits Rotterdam and the 
Hague, Amsterdam, Mittau, &c. ...... Page 1 


Arrival at St. Petersburg — Reception by Sir James Harris, the English 
Ambassador — He declines the Offer of the Director- Generalship of Marine 
Works — Visit to Cronstadt, Moscow, and Cherson — Return to St. 
Petersburg — Sets out to visit the great Factories and Mines of Russia, 
Feb. 1781 — Ship-building at Archangel — Catherinaburg — Crosses the 
Ural Mountains into Siberia — Mines at Verskatouria — Sect of the 
Raskolniks — Visit to Nijni Taghil — He constructs a Vehicle to serve 
both as Boat and Carriage — Invents a Machine for Planing Wood — 
Raskolnik Marriage Rites — Raskolnik Resistance to Persecution — Gene- 
ral Aspect of the Country 15 


Perme — Improvements in Mining Pumps — Cavern near Perme — Collection 
of Minerals — Arrival at Tobolsk, January, 1782 — Introduction to the 
Anchree — Population of Siberia — State of Crime — Arrival at Krasno- 
jarseh — Mines at Narchinsk — The Chinese Frontier — Kiaehta — Visit 
to the Chinese Governor — Chinese Temples and Images — Fortune-telling 
— Intercourse between Russians and Chinese .... 36 



Condition and Treatment of Exiles in Siberia — He descends the Angora 
from Irkutsk — Letter to his Brother Jeremy Bentham — Fanaticism of 
Russian Peasants — Appeal on the Murder of a Tonguse — Slave Trade 
of the Kirgees — Fertility of Siberia — He visits Nijni Novgorod — 
Returns to St. Petersburg, and presents a Report to the Empress — 
Declines Lord Shelburne's Offer of a Commissionership of the Navy — 
Sir James Harris leaves Bentham as Charge d' Affaires at St. Petersburg 
— He is appointed a " Conseiller de la Cour," and entrusted -with the 
Works of the Fontanha Canal — Engagement with the Niece of Prince 
" Galitzin — Letter of Sir James Harris — The Engagement finally broken 
off — He is appointed Lieutenant-Colonel in the Russian Army, with the 
Command of the Southern Part of the Country . . . Page 57 


Journey to the Crimea — He is settled for a Time at Cricheff — Preparations 
for Ship-building — Extent of his Engagements — Military Duties — 
Manufacture of Steel — Building of the River Yacht Vermicular — 
Arming of a Flotilla at Cherson — Defeat of the Turkish Fleet, June, 1788 
— Bentham receives the Military Order of St. George, with the Rank of 
full Colonel, and other Rewards — Privateering — Appointed to a Cavalry 
Regiment in Siberia — Excursion in the Country of the Kirgees, 1789 — 
Expedition to the Mouth of the River Ob — Kirgee Ignorance of Fire — 
Ship-building at Kamschatka for the American Fur Trade — Visits Paris 
on his Way to England 74 


Journey through the Manufacturing Districts of England, 1791 — Classifi- 
cation of Mechanical Works — Death of his Father — Prison Archi- 
tecture — Mechanical Inventions and Improvements — He is commissioned 
by the Admiralty to visit the Naval Dockyards — Resigns the Russian 
Service — Report on Portsmouth Dockyard, 1795 — Improvements and 
Alterations in the Dockyard — He is ordered to build seven Vessels on 
his own Plans — Changes introduced in their Construction — Appointed 
Inspector-General of Naval Works — The Appointment sanctioned by 
the King in Council, March, 1796 — Increased Calibre of Guns on 
Shipboard 97 


Marriage — Prison Architecture — Invention of a Mortar Mill for grinding 
Cement — Chemical Tests and Experiments on Ship Timber —Means for 
guarding Dockyards — Dock Buildings and Fittings — Choice of Materials 
— Supply of Water — Precautions against Fire — Introduction of Steam 


Engines — Copper Sheathing — Coast Defences — Eeport on the Office 
of Inspector- General ordered by the Select Committee of the House of 
Commons — Interconvertibility of Ship Stores — Cost of Mast Ponds — 
Effect of the Report to the Select Committee — Alterations and Improve- 
ments in Plymouth Dockyard — Abuse of Chips — Bad Conversion of 
Timber — Illness — Smuggling Vessels at Hastings . . Page 121 


Dock Entrances at Portsmouth — New South Dock for Ships of the Line — 
Choice of Stone in building — Mast Ponds — Reservoirs for Clearing 
Docks — Treatment of his Experimental Vessels — Floating Dam — 
Steam Engine and Pumps — A Russian Fleet at Spithead — Interviews 
with the Officers — Daily Occupations — Character of Dockyard Work- 
men — Steam Dredging Machine — Enlargement of Marine Barracks at 
Chatham — Artesian Well — Deptford Dockyard — Sheerness— Proposals 
for a Dockyard at the Isle of Grain — Improved Copper Sheathing — 
Success of the Experimental Vessels — Principle of Non-recoil in mount- 
ing Guns — Engagement between the Millbrook and the French Frigate 
Bellone, and between the Dart and the Desiree .... 146 


Correspondence with Lady Spencer on Reforms in the Civil Management of 
the Navy — Payment of Dockyard Workmen — Principles of his new 
System of Management — Report to the King in Council — Objections 
urged against a Reform — Office of Master- Attendant — Principle of Dock- 
yard Appointments — Wages and Employment of Workmen — Navy Pay 
Books — Education for the Civil Department of the Navy — Naval 
Seminaries — Changes in the Accountant's Office — Interest of Money 
sunk in Public Works — Dockyard Working Regulations — Opposition of 
the Comptroller of the Navy — Official Tour to Portsmouth, Torbay, and 
Plymouth — Renewed Acquaintance with the Earl of St. Vincent — Dock- 
yard Abuses at Plymouth — Designs for a Breakwater — Return to 
London — Opposition to the Report — The Earl of St. Vincent succeeds 
Lord Spencer as First Lord of the Admiralty — The Report sanctioned in 
Council, May, 1801 — Suggestions for arming Vessels of War — Green- 
wich Hospital — Office of Timber-Master in the Royal Dockyard — 
Efforts on behalf of Convicts — Management of Timber Stores — Report 
to Lord St. Vincent, February, 1802 — Opposition — Commission of Naval 
Inquiry — Provisional Plan for the Education of Dockyard Appren- 
tices 170 


Tour to visit Cordage Manufactories, January 1803 — Report, and Adop- 
tion of his Proposals — Treatment of Workpeople in Factories — Services 
of Mr. Brunei in the Introduction of Block Machinery — Method of 


rewarding Inventors — Advantages of Non-recoil Guns — Abuses in 
Job Payments — Proposals for a Government Ropery, 1804 — Contracts 
for Timber — Opposition of the Navy Board — Arming of the Mercantile 
Marine — Timber Coynes — Dockyard Machinery at Portsmouth — 
Mission to build Ships in Russia, 1805 — Arrival at Cronstadt — Diffi- 
culties of his Task — Opposition of the Emperor — Illness — His Pro- 
posals rejected by the Emperor — Importation of Copper for Sheathing 
— Detention at St. Petersburg during the Winter — Panopticon of 
Ochta — Departure from St. Petersburg — Revel — Carlscrona — Return 
to England — The Office of Inspector- General of Naval Works merged 
in the Navy Board Page 220 


Changes of Administration at the Admiralty — Influences at work during 
his Absence in Russia — Acceptance of Office in the Navy Board' — 
Letter from General Fanshawe — Compensation to Mr. Brunei for 
Savings on Blocks — Proposal for a Canal from Portsmouth Harbour to 
Stokes Bay — Mixture of Copper and Tin — Faulty Method of Ship- 
building — Covered Docks — Modes of Seasoning Timber — Seasoning 
Houses — Sheerness Dockyard — Northfleet and the Isle of Grain — 
Breakwater at Plymouth 250 


Designs for Chatham — Improvements in Dredging Machines — Inadequate 
Assistance in carrying out his Designs — Works at Portsmouth — Ply- 
mouth Breakwater — His Office abolished — Remuneration and Com- 
pensation — Count er-Claims of the Navy Board — Continued Designs — 
Sheerness — Employment of Women — Anonymous Charges — Departure 
for France, 1814 — Return of Napoleon from Elba — Removal to Tours 
and Paris — Death of his Eldest Son, 1816 — Journey to Angouleme — 
Return to England, 1827 — Fate of the Experimental Vessels, Arrow, 
Netley, Eling, &c. — Transport Service — Interest of Money sunk in 
Public Works — Form of Vessels — Payment of the Navy — Illness and 
Death . 291 


Page 31, line 1 (and elsewhere), for " Prata-Pope" read " Proto-Pope." 
„ 41, „ 29, for " Listvenishna" read " Ustvenishna." 
„ 53, „ 17 (and elsewhere), for " Naimatchin" read " Maimatchin." 



Birth and Parentage of Samuel Bentham — Education at Westminster 
School — Apprenticeship under the Master-Shipwright of Woolwich 
Dockyard — He is removed to Chatham Yard — Proposal to the Navy 
Board for an improved Chain Pump — Eesidence at Caen — Return to 
London — Introduction to Sir Hugh Palliser, and Captain Jarvis, after- 
wards Lord St. Vincent — Offer from Captain Bazely of H3I.S. Nymph 
declined — Leaves England, August, 1779; visits Rotterdam and the 
Hague, Amsterdam, Mittau, &c. 

Brigadier-General Sir Samuel Bentham, K.S.Gk, was 
the youngest son of Jeremiah Bentham, Esq., of Queen 
Square Place, Westminster. His only surviving brother 
(his senior by ten years) was the celebrated Jeremy 
Bentham, well known by his works on jurisprudence. 
Their father and grandfather were both lawyers. One of 
their ancestors was Thomas Bentham, Bishop of Litchfield 
and Coventry, who died in 1578. 

Samuel was born on the 11th of January, 1757. He 
was first placed at Mr. Willis's private boarding school, 
then at Westminster School at the age of six. Their 
mother having died soon after his birth, their father mar- 
ried again, in October, 1766, the widow of John Abbot, 
and the mother of two sons, Farr and Charles, the latter 
so distinguished in after life as Speaker of the House of 
Commons, and subsequently raised to the peerage by the 
title of Baron Colchester. From the time of Mr. Bentham's 
second marriage Charles and Samuel became in affection 



to each other as real brothers : their treatment in the pa- 
rental home was the same, their education similar, their 
recreations alike. Jeremy Bentham, in a letter to his 
cousin Mulford, said, " It is with pleasure that I can 
confirm the favourable account you are pleased to say you 
have heard of my father's choice, and from the best autho- 
rity, for such in that case is that of a stepson, who is 

but too often the last person to do it justice. I became 
acquainted with her soon after my own mother's death, as 
soon, or I believe a little sooner, than my father. For 
some years there has been the strictest intimacy between 
the two families ; she always had my esteem in the highest 
degree, and it cost me but little to improve it. Since 
their marriage, she has ever behaved to me and my bro- 
ther in the same manner (making an allowance for the 
difference of ages) as to her own children, whom she ten- 
derly loves : they form a little triumvirate, in which, very 
differently from the great cabals distinguished by that 
name, there reigns the most perfect harmony." This is 
but a tribute justly due to a lady who has been mentioned 
in print in less flattering terms, and is moreover a proof 
that the bias of Samuel, which led him early away from 
home, did not originate in any discomfort experienced 
under the parental roof. 

The first circumstances which may have led eminent 
men, to the choice of some particular career, cannot be 
devoid of interest ; but Samuel never indicated what was 
the origin of his predilection for naval concerns. Possibly 
it might have been stimulated, by the circumstance of 
a building in his father's coachyard, being occupied by a 
carpenter as his workshop : for there he worked in all 
his spare moments as a carpenter. Doubtless he must 
have acquired some dexterity ; for, in after life, he often 
spoke with delight of his having witli his own hands 
manufactured a carriage for his playfellow, the afterwards 
celebrated Cornelia Knight, whose father, Admiral Knight, 


was an intimate friend at Queen Square Place. Samuel's 
progress at Westminster school distinguished him from the 
generality of boys, so that he was destined for a liberal 
profession, and was preparing for the University, when an 
uncontrollable desire to become a naval constructor, in- 
duced his father to gratify the inclination, and to procure 
for him the best education, which the country at that time 
afforded in the art of ship-building. This was secured by 
placing him as an apprentice to the master-shipwright of a 
royal dockyard, and Mr. Gray of Woolwich was selected as 
the master. Some months before Samuel attained the legal 
age of fourteen, he was bound apprentice to that gentle- 
man, and regularly entered His Majesty's service as soon 
as he had attained his fourteenth year. 

At that now distant period, it was conceived that the 
apprentices to such an officer, being usually of a superior 
class and education to those of the common shipwright, 
were training for future officers. The occasional absence, 
therefore, from the dockside, of lads so circumstanced, was 
winked at, though the master received from Government 
the full wao-es for them, as if their work had been unre- 
mitted. Much abuse arose therefrom, but the practice 
still continued, till Samuel himself at a future time was 
the means of its abolition. In his own case, however, it 
was fully understood that he should be allowed ample 
time for the acquirement of such knowledge, as might 
tend to the advancement of naval construction and equip- 
ment. He was boarded in the house of Mr. Gray, to 
whom was paid the then very ample sum of £50 a-year, 
besides a considerable apprentice fee. A distinguished 
master of mathematics, Cowley, of Woolwich Warren, was 
engaged to give Samuel lessons in that science, in which 
he made such progress as to write during his apprentice- 
ship a treatise, which had the reputation of having ex- 
hibited unusual ability. He was removed with Mr. 
Gray to Chatham Yard, where his ardent thirst for know- 

B 2 


ledge was gratified by intercourse with men distinguished 
in various branches of science ; but at the same time 
he did not neglect the handicraft branch of his profes- 
sion. In a note-book, which still exists, is set down the 
manner in which he allotted different parts of the day 
to his several occupations : " Geometry before breakfast ; 
working ship-building between breakfast and dinner ; Mr. 
Davis (his tutor) with me at my cabin from dinner till 
six o'clock, while I am drawing. Music just before dinner, 
some light reading immediately after." These note-books 
exhibit the great variety of subjects in which he was 
acquiring knowledge, — chemistry, electricity, painting, 
grammar, especially of the French language, and many 
other subjects, besides those more immediately connected 
with naval architecture, such as mechanics and ship- 
building, the defects of which, as then practised, he already 
perceived. He was also alive to the many abuses that 
existed in the Eoyal Dockyards, and from his unpretending- 
station as apprentice was allowed an insight into many 
abuses, which otherwise he might never have been able to 
ascertain. His residence at Chatham also afforded fre- 
quent opportunities of gaining experience in sailing boats 
and small craft, and he often went out to sea from the 
Medway, cruising sometimes as far as Portsmouth and 
round the Isle of Wight. 

At the early age of fifteen, by Mr. Gray's advice, he 
made his first official proposal to the Navy Board of an 
improved chain pump, and the Navy Board in reply, to 
use their words, " admit the improvement and commend 
his ingenuity," but decline it as they had already a con- 
tract for pumps. He afterwards learnt that the Board 
really was convinced of the superiority of his pump, but 
they had a contractor whom "they did not like to turn off." 

In the year 1775, Mr. and Mrs. Bentham took their 
three sons Farr and Charles Abbot and Samuel Bentham, 
by permission of the Navy Board, to Caen, for the jmrpose 


of giving them fluency in the French language, and for 
effecting this they had previously provided for the recep- 
tion of the lads in three different French families. The 
parents left the lads, that nothing might impede their 
speedy acquirement of the language ; and this judicious 
arrangement was rewarded by success. Samuel particu- 
larly spoke and wrote French with purity and taste. 

During his apprenticeship, he was the contriver of several 
improvements relative to naval matters, such as a Cur- 
vator for measuring crooked timbers, together with seve- 
ral small alterations in the form or equipment of sailing 
and rowing boats. The views which he had for his future 
employment when that apprenticeship should expire, will 
best be described by quotations from a letter of his, 
which commences thus : — " On the 2nd of August next 
I shall have served out my seven years : at the expiration 
of that time some alteration must take place, I have not 
as yet determined what. I should not wish to be there 
(in the yard), if I were not to continue to be as much 
my own master as I am at present, and this would be 
almost impossible. I should like much to superintend 
the building of some one ship under the foreman of the 
new works, but as this is not practicable, at the expira- 
tion of my time I shall apply myself closely to geometry, 
and finish the fifth book for publication : you know I 
have some reason to believe that by this means I might 
acquire interest enough to get master boat-builder. In 
such an office, I should have very advantageous oppor- 
tunities of perfecting myself in the knowledge of the busi- 
ness as it is, and should have sufficient leisure to make 
some experiments, and apply myse]f to gain that know- 
ledge of it which would enable me to investigate what it 
might be. Practice alone may show how work has been 
done, but practice is insufficient to teach how it ought to 
be done. To confess to you the truth, had I not thoughts 
of the possibility of being at the head of my profession, I 

B 3 


never would have engaged in it. It is a profession I am 
exceedingly fond of : I prefer it to any : it is one that 
affords the largest field for the exercise of that kind of 
knowledge, which I seem to have gotten the clue to. 
Money, you know, I consider in no other light but as 
affording the means of satisfying my darling passion. In 
the King's service, although the profits are not large, yet 
could I have confidence put in me, could I but have the 
favour of those in power, although I should not have money, 
yet I should have that for which alone I should want it — 
I might have assistance in trying my experiments, in pur- 
suing my researches : what I should have of my own, with 
the addition of the little I should have as salary, would 
satisfy me in such circumstances. 

" Very little encouragement now would set me alive. I 
am acting against the advice of all my friends ; they want 
me to engage in a private yard ; to spend my whole life, 
or at least the younger part of it, in the drudgery of buy- 
ing timber and patching together ships, for which I must 
court all such folks as masters of colliers, &c. Supposing 
in that time I may amass 20,000/., when those faculties 
are weakened by which alone I could enjoy the spending 
it : I should then be living for the sake of living after- 
wards, and should be doing all the while the contrary of 
what it would be my greatest ambition to do." 

There were, however, no means of enabling him to re- 
main in the King's service, excepting in a very inferior 
office. His determination therefore was to employ some 
time in acquiring further knowledge, previously to deciding 
on what should be his future career. He attended chemi- 
cal lectures in London, acquired the German language, 
became a pupil at the Naval Academy at Portsmouth, and 
spent two more years in improving himself in the practices 
of the several different Eoyal Dockyards, as also a part of 
that time on shipboard, as a volunteer in Lord Keppel's 
fleet. In a letter to his brother, 5th July, 1778, he says, 


<f On Monday last I breakfasted and dined on board the 
Formidable, with her captain, Barclay, where, on being 
introduced to Sir Hugh Palliser, that gentleman recollected 
me. During my stay on board, I projected an alteration 
in the apparatus for steering, the purpose for which was 
to make it easier, by only altering the direction of an eye- 
bolt ; when I mentioned this, the master and carpenters 
began swearing at themselves for not having thought of 
the same thing." The part was taken to the dockyard to 
be altered ; but instead of this a new one was made under 
Samuel's direction. 

In a subsequent part of the same letter he says, " I went 
also on board the Foudroyant with a lieutenant of the 
Formidable, who was desired to introduce me to Captain 
Jar vis, as a particular friend of Captain Barclay's.  Cap- 
tain Jarvis, you must know, is one of the highest-rate 
captains. He went all over the ship with me, and we 
became quite great friends. I mentioned my alteration in 
the steering apparatus, and he seemed exceedingly pleased 
with it, offering to have his altered according to the same 
plan." Thus commenced his acquaintance with the Earl 
of St. Vincent. It happened that after that year, they 
never met again till 1800, during his Lordship's command 
of the fleet then in Torbay, when their friendship was 
renewed and manifested itself in the utmost cordiality, 
and in the most flattering and convincing proofs of the 
high estimation in which he held Bentham's views of im- 
provements in naval concerns. 

In the }^ear 1778, when at sea as a volunteer on board 
the Bienfaisant, besides his attention to the nautical branch 
of the profession and the behaviour of ships at sea, Captain 
Macbride, whose table and cabin he shared, afforded him 
many particulars of information relative to general ma- 
nagement, all of which data were treasured up, and made 
use of afterwards under the administrations of Lords 
Spencer and St. Vincent. 

B 4 


He had already felt the deficiency in point of appro- 
priate education in civil naval service which could be 
obtained in either public or private establishments, when, 
happening to meet with Sir William Petty's plan of a 
system of instruction relative to the marine department, 
he perceived the many advantages that such a plan would 
afford in the training of men for the civil naval service ; 
but as Sir William's was little more than a skeleton, 
Bentham rilled it up with the many branches of knowledge 
which in his view seemed desirable. In Sir William's 
plan several essential items were not noticed, for example, 
mixed mathematics, particularly mechanics, hydrostatics, 
hydraulics and pneumatics, naval chemistry, naval eco- 
nomy. These and many other additions to Sir William's 
plan appear in Bentham's, which, though completed in 
1779, was only published in his Naval Papers, No. 1. It 
had, however, been presented to the Lords of the Admi- 
ralty in 1795, and formed the groundwork of the plan for 
naval seminaries intended to be introduced by both Lords 
Spencer and St. Vincent. 

Amongst many offers of employment was one from 
Captain Bazely, of the Nymph, who was desirous that 
Bentham should accompany him to the East Indies, 
"partly to extend his observations, partly from a view 
(to use Captain Bazely's words) of the benefit the naval 
service in those parts might upon any emergency receive 
from his suggestions. The Captain was with me about it," 
(wrote his brother Jeremy to Mr. Fitzherbert,) " but my 
father could not be persuaded to consent." 

In the summer of that year, Lord Howe, then First 
Lord of the Admiralty, suggested that, instead of accepting 
any immediate employment at home, Samuel should spend 
some time in visiting maritime countries abroad, to study 
the ship-building and naval economy of foreign powers. 
His father was at first averse to this also, but soon perceived 
the advantages which such extensive means of information 


would afford to his son, and gave his full consent to and 
approbation of the journey. Friends were then applied to 
for letters of introduction, two of which, to Sir James 
Harris (first Lord Malmesbury), our ambassador at St. 
Petersburg, afford examples of the general style of the 
seventy which he obtained. Besides these, Bentham was 
furnished with others, that were officially addressed, to 
various ministers and consuls at foreign courts and mari- 
time establishments. 

Letter from Sir Gilbert Elliot to Sir James Harris, Am- 
bassador of His B. M. at St. Petersburg, in behalf of Mr. 
Bentham : — 

"London, Uth July, 1779. 

" My dear Harris, — I beg leave to introduce to you Mr. 
Bentham, with whom Mr. Douglas has lately made me acquainted. 
The profession which he has chosen is that of ship-building, but 
he proposes to study it in a much more liberal manner than is 
generally done, and is prepared for it by school education and an 
attention to science not to be met with, I believe, in any other of 
his profession, at least of this country. Part of his plan is to see 
all that is curious in that art abroad, and his visit to Petersburg 
is in the same view. It is a great triumph for the memory of 
Peter the Great that an Englishman shoidd go to learn ship- 
building in Russia. This consideration will, I daresay, procure 
Mr. Bentham the attention of the country he is going to, and his 
agreeable manners and accomplishments will ensure to him your 
good offices and friendship. 

" Believe me, my dear Harris, your affectionate 

".Gilbert Elliot." 

From Ed. Poore, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn, to Sir James 
Harris : — 

, " Salisbury, 14:th July, 1779. 
" I have taken the liberty to commend to your notice the bearer, 
Mr. Samuel Bentham, who is travelling for his improvement in 
the theory of ship-building, which he is very likely to advance 


in, as he is very ingenious and assiduous in the studies connected 
with his occupation. As his object in visiting other countries is 
merely information, and not any personal emolument, and he has 
been very much countenanced and recommended by some of our 
first people here in that light, I have presumed to add my know- 
ledge of him to what other introductions he may have, and am 
persuaded he will not fall short of any recommendations you may 
think proper to give him to any of the naval department at St. 
Petersburgh, to the principal of whom, indeed, he has letters 
from Lord Shelburne and others, but would be, perhaps, more 
properly and more forcibly recommended by your patronage of 

" I take this opportunity of making you my gratulations on the 
late accession of honours that has happened to you, which I 
should have done before but that I would not take up your time 
with mere compliments. My best respects attend Lady Harris 
and your sister. 

" I am, &c. your faithful friend, 

"Ed. Poore." 

As Mr. Bentham's agreeable manners and accomplish- 
ments have been spoken of, it may be added that his 
intellectual countenance was engaging from the sincerity 
of the expression, his tall figure graceful, and the hands 
that at times worked at the dock-side still retained their 
delicacy. He could bear his part with elegance in the 
amusements of the first society, and he could hew a piece 
of timber with correctness. On the Continent he was dis- 
tinguished in society as " le bel Anglais." 

He embarked on the 24th of August, 1779, on board a 
Dutch eel boat for Helvoetsluys, such a vessel being safer 
than the packet during that time of war. His accom- 
modations on board were all of them as luxurious as his 
bed, which was merely a bag of Scotch barley. His 
voyage was tedious, and it was not till the 31st that he 
landed at Helvoetsluys ; but he thought it an advantage to 
have had this early proof of his ability to rough it. He 


visited Rotterdam and the Hague, having letters to our 
ambassador there, Sir Joseph Yorke. On mentioning 
his first visit to Sir Joseph, he said : " Never was I so 
much pleased with the conversation of any man. He 
gave me the character of the several people I am 
recommended to at Amsterdam." On dining with the am- 
bassador next day, Bentham received from him two poli- 
tical pamphlets, one of them by Sir James Marriott. " The 
other Sir Joseph calls a libel, but says at the same time 
that it is every word of it true. He insists much on the 
use and almost absolute necessity of libels against libels, 
professes himself to have been the cause of a yard-full ot 
them being written, and says, after the King of Prussia, 
that it is as necessary to write against an enemy as to 
fight him out." 

At Amsterdam he obtained an insight into the details of 
ship-building in Holland, and of all the business connected 
with it. The three brothers May especially were most 
obliging in their confidential communications, and afforded 
him valuable information as to the means employed for 
the preservation of timber, a subject which he held to be 
of vital importance in ship-building, and which he made 
everywhere a particular subject of inquiry. 

His letters to his father and brother describe the country 
through which he passed, and the habits and manners of 
the people when differing from those of England. Such 
particulars, as being either already known or obsolete, may 
be generally passed over; still it may be worth noting that 
at Leyden the plants in the botanical garden are shown 
" by as pretty a Dutch girl as you will see in a hundred," 
and, " when we came to the natural history another still 
prettier girl made her appearance, and ran over a score or 
two of names in her department ; I was astonished to see 
females so well informed in such matters." 

During his stay at Amsterdam, he particularly noted 
the difference of expense at which naval business is car- 


ried on in England. In that city there was a Board of 
Admiralty, consisting of seven members. " They do the 
business of the Lords of the Admiralty, of the Com- 
missioners of the Customs, Commissioners of the Navy 
and Victualling Boards in England ; their salary is £300 
a-year, and about £50 perquisites, besides a house, firing, 
and, I believe, candles. Yet they are rich, not from 
their places, for they consider them as posts of honour 
only. The Burgomaster of Amsterdam clears about £60 
a-year by his place, but at the same time he has the dis- 
posal of all places in the city, one or two of them with 
perhaps £2000 per annum. They have never been known 
on account of this power to go snacks with the nominee." 
So in regard to France ; from information to be depended 
on, he learnt that " there is about as much work done 
in the dockyard at Toulon as in that of Amsterdam, 
an equal number of ships built and fitted in a given 
time. There are employed at Toulon about 4,000 who 
work with their tools, and upwards of 200 men who keep 
accounts and direct the works. Here there are about 
12,000 men who work with tools, and about twenty who 
keep accounts and direct the works. A Dutch workman 
is very slow in his movements, but he never stops ; he 
drinks only the small beer allowed him, of which he may 
drink as much as he pleases." 

Notes of this kind indicate that Bentham's investigations 
extended to the management under which the business of 
a naval arsenal is carried on, and the degree of economy 
with which works in them were executed — a subject in 
which, as will subsequently appear, he was afterwards 
much occupied in England, with a view to reforms in the 
management of the civil branch of the naval department. 

One of the above-mentioned brothers May habitually 
spent the winter in England, and had large dealings with 
the Navy Board in furnishing ships for the transport ser- 
vice. Some information which Bentham obtaine from 



these gentlemen, affords an example of the difficulty with 
which improvements then, as up to the present time, are 
introduced in the English naval department. In a letter of 
September 10th, 1779, he writes: " It is now upwards of 
twenty years that they (the Mays) have experienced the 
efficacy of a method they have discovered of preparing the 
timber at the expense of a very few pounds. Their father, 
being master-builder of the public yard here, applied his 
method to several ships of war he built about this time. 
These ships have since had but the most trifling repairs 
imaginable, and the timbers remain now as sound as at 
first ; whereas before that time a ship had often been so 
much decayed in the space of five years as to be broken up 
as unfit for service. These ships of May's have already 
outlasted seven such ships. The Dutch wished to keep 
this secret to themselves, but as nothing can escape the 
notice of Sir Joseph Yorke, our Admiralty were informed 
of it, at least in part, and it was ordered to be put in 
practice ; however, it shared the fate of all other proposals. 
It was at first badly conducted, and by a change in the 
Admiralty entirely neglected. Our ships were left to rot 
ad libitum, and the Dutch hug themselves and laugh at 
us. I know a good deal of the manner in which this was 
communicated, and of the reception it met with ; but what 
is much more to the purpose, I know, pretty nearly at 
least, the whole of the method itself." 

Bentham remained successively at various ports in the 
Baltic, long enough to obtain such information as could be 
acquired at them. At Mittau the Grand. Duke of Cour- 
land honoured him with much distinction, and here it was 
that his evident stock of information and judgment ob- 
tained for him the first offer of place and pecuniary emolu- 
ment. The Duke offered him very advantageous terms if 
he could be induced to take a part in the management and 
disposal of the timber of the country. Many letters and 
facts indicated that he was already distinguished by the 


epithet " le savant voyagewr? and that a all who knew 
him were astonished at the great modesty they discovered 
in him." It is not surprising therefore that in addition to 
the valuable letters of introduction which he took from 
England, many others not less flattering were given to 
him from the friends which he made wherever he spent 
some time. 




Arrival at St. Petersburg — Reception by Sir James Harris, the English 
Ambassador — He declines the Offer of the Direct or- Generalship of Marine 
Works — Visit to Cronstadt, Moscow, and Cherson — Return to St. 
Petersburg — Sets out to visit the great Factories and Mines of Russia, 
Peb. 1781 — Ship-building at Archangel — Catherinaburg — Crosses the 
Ural Mountains into Siberia — Mines at Verskatouria — Sect of the 
Raskolniks — Visit to Nishnai Taghil — He constructs a Vehicle to serve 
both as Boat and Carriage — Invents a Machine for Planing Wood — 
Raskolnik Marriage Rites — Raskolnik Resistance to Persecution — Gene- 
ral Aspect of the Country. 

Mr. Bentham arrived at St. Petersburg in March, 1780, 
when he was for some time confined to the house in con- 
sequence of illness brought on by the overturning of the 
carriage in which he travelled. In a letter written whilst 
still laid up he says : " Count Tchernicheff has heard of 
me, and knows a great deal about me, and expresses a wish 
to see me every day. He makes me offers before he has 
spoken to me or seen me.'' Mr. Samborski, the Eussian 
chaplain attached to the Embassy in London, had before 
this expressed a strong desire to engage Mr. Bentham in 
the Eussian service. 

Bentham's first visit on his recovery was, of course, to 
the ambassador. His reception was most flattering. He 
said himself : " Although I expected, from his character and 
from the letters I carried with me, to be received with a 
great deal of politeness, yet the reception I met with ex- 
ceeded my expectations." Indeed, far from confining his 
civilities to a first visit, or to such as are usually bestowed 
on persons recommended, Sir James Harris bestowed on 


Mr. Bentham many proofs of friendship. The young man 
was permitted to consult him on all occasions, and thence- 
forward took no step without Sir James's advice and con- 
currence. The ambassador also introduced him to the 
first society in St. Petersburg, and Mr. Bentham had 
reason to say that, " it was not by invitations to dinner 
that I measure his friendship ; he gives me other proofs 
of it." 

Shortly afterwards Count Tchernicheff offered Mr. 
Bentham the Director-Generalship of all the ship-building 
and mechanical works relating to the Marine. This was 
declined, as it would have fixed him in Eussia. His wdshes 
always led him home again, though his acceptance of the 
office would have enabled him to carry on experiments 
with a view to improvements in his profession. It appears, 
too, that he doubted his father's approval of such a step ; 
but when he alleged this to Sir James as one reason for 
his refusal, the reply was that, " no employ would be pro- 
posed to him but under such advantages that even his 
father could not but approve of it." 

In May he visited Cronstadt, furnished with letters from 
Sir James Harris and from Count Tchernicheff to the Com- 
mander-in-chief of that port and arsenal, Admiral Greig. 
From this double recommendation, Mr. Bentham said, " I 
got the confidence as well as the civilities of the Admiral." 
So that he had full opportunity of acquainting himself 
with all the various naval arrangements of that port, and 
of all the accommodations in the arsenal there provided 
for the construction, equipment, and management of every- 
thing connected with the outfit of a fleet. 

Mr. Bentham then set out on a journey through the 
interior of Russia, to visit the seaports on the south, 
making some little stay at places of interest on his way. 
On his arrival at Moscow the Governor honoured him with 
an invitation to his table. A young Russian with whom 
he had already formed a friendship (Serge Plescheff), being 


also at Moscow, engaged to convey Bentham to the Gover- 
nor's, and promised to bring him home. After dinner the 
party adjourned to the theatre. During the performance 
the house took fire, and the greatest consternation of course 
arose. PleschefT hurried out his sister ; Bentham assisted 
other ladies, and escorted them safely to their carriages, 
when they drove off and in the confusion left him alone 
and helpless in the road. He was in the full dress of the 
time, with glittering shoe and knee buckles and the cha- 
peau de bras. The police accosted him. He had not yet 
learnt Euss, yet he contrived to understand that they asked 
his place " of residence.!' He could not say that PleschefT 
had engaged it for him, nor could he name the house of his 
friend. The good-natured police endeavoured in vain to 
understand his signs, till at length he managed to make 
them comprehend his wish to be taken to the Governor. 
The request seemed extraordinar} 7 . They hesitated, and 
were taking him to prison, after much dumb-show parley, 
when PleschefT appeared, who, having seen his sister safely 
lodged at home, bethought himself of Bentham and re- 
turned just in time to explain matters, and to save him 
from being placed in durance for having presumed to ask 
for an escort to the Governor. 

Further south, in passing through a village of Easkol- 
niks, he asked for food and a draught of water. Both 
were cheerfully and abundantly supplied, but payment was 
positively refused. When the repast was over, he saw every 
vessel which he had used dashed to pieces on the ground. 
The Raskolniks are schismatics from the Eussian Church, 
with which in certain respects they will have no inter- 
course ; and one of the peculiarities of the sect is that 
they never eat or drink from any vessel that has been used 
by a person of the orthodox Church. 

He visited Cherson, little dreaming of his future occu- 
pation there. The town then consisted of no more than 180 
houses. In a letter of August 10th, 1780, he says : "The}- 



are establishing, or attempting to establish, a marine in 
the Black Sea. This is at present the favourite object of 
the Court. General Hannibal, of black parents, though 
born in Kussia, has the entire management of it under 
Prince Potemkin. He (Hannibal) has the command of 
building, fortifying, and settling the new town of Cherson, 
as well as the first command of all the naval department 
there. He chose the spot not above two or three years ago, 
when there was not even a hut there. In a few years he 
expects to see in it a fleet of thirty-two ships. Sheds to 
cover them are also to grow up with them. He has the 
favour of the Empress and her ministers, and snaps his 
fingers at the Admiralty. He gave me a general descrip- 
tion of his plan. Timber they get chiefly from Chernobyl 
in Poland, for there is scarcely a single tree within 200 
miles of Cherson." 

Bentham returned to Moscow by Chernobyl and Mittau. 
Many incidents during this tour show the estimation in 
which he was held ; to notice one of them, after staying 
some days with Count Chadkiovitz he was not allowed to 
proceed to Mittau, otherwise than in the count's carriage. 
" In this manner was I brought all through Poland, and 
not permitted to be at a farthing's expense." 

At St. Petersburg, to use his own words, "in a little time 
I returned to my old hankering," and in October " con- 
trived a new mode of composing masts," perhaps the same 
that he afterwards introduced in England with complete 
success. " I hope I shall be able to show," he says, " by 
the principles of mechanics, the advantage in point of 
strength, as well as of economy, of this mode over the pre- 
sent practice." The saving which he afterwards effected 
in England was twenty-five per cent, in workmanship, be- 
sides a considerable sum in timber. 

In a letter to his father at this time he laments the 
expenses which he had unavoidably incurred : " A carriage," 
he said, (( was as necessary as a pair of gloves, more so than 


a shirt;" — he then related the economical arrangement 
which he had now made to diminish his expenditure, and 
avoid altogether much of the cost of a vehicle. " To Sir 
James Harris's, unless when there is much company in had 
weather, I walk, yet contrive to save my reputation, not- 
withstanding the great aversion every class of people here 
has to the idea of walking. You tell me, Sir, that I used 
to make more shifts and undergo more hardships from 
economy : believe me, never so much then as now, though 
perhaps never with so good a will and so great a necessity. 
Coarse bread, black and sour, with sometimes milk, some- 
times water, was my food the greatest part of my journey; 
not because I could not get other, but really because I 
would not be at the expense of it. In a bed I did not 
sleep during my journey, except while I was at my friend 
Count Chadkiovitz's, neither have I since my return. A 
sofa on which I sit with a great table before me by day, 
serves me as a bed at night. The same cloak, which served 
me so well on my journey, serves me now as sheets and 
blankets. Apples arid bread are my food when I stay at 
home ; indeed I might have princely fare if I would bestow 
time and trouble to go out for it." 

But Bentham was not yet satisfied with the amount 
already received of what he considered his education. He 
wished to improve himself still further by witnessing actual 
practice in mechanical operations as it existed in foreign 
manufactories, to investigate the art of management where 
there were great assemblages of working men, and to im- 
prove himself in the knowledge of metallurgy. Accordingly, 
in February 1781, he set out to visit the great factories 
in the Eussian dominions, and the most important of the 
mines, those especially in the Ural Mountains, and to the 
eastward of them. He arrived at Archangel in March. 
The greater part of the vast extent of country through 
which he passed is still but little known, and its inhabi- 
tants were then, as even now, considered coarse and brutal 

C 2 


in manners as in mind: he, on the contrary, found the 
higher classes possessed of much information and polished 
manners, and all orders he found good-natured and good- 
humoured, with a sincere desire to assist and to oblige. 
The greater part of the journal kept at this time has 
unfortunately been lost, but letters to his brother and 
other friends afford much curious and valuable informa- 

A heavy fall of snow occasioned the driver of his carriage 
to lose his way at a distance of eight versts from Archangel. 
He walked into the town, lodged with General W^exel, 
and was everywhere received most flatteringly. He after- 
wards was received in the house of M. Sereptzova, the 
judge appointed by Government, from whom he received 
much information relative to judicial matters. 

He learnt that it was a common practice at Archangel to 
build ships with the money, and on account of English 
merchants. The vessels were sent to England loaded with 
Eussian produce, and then were permitted to sail as mer- 
chantmen, the greater part of the profit being secured to 
the English. A vessel built at Archangel cost 10,000 
roubles (the rouble about 3s.), made four voyages in two 
succeeding years, and was then sold to the British Govern- 
ment for 5000?. 

Among the few of his notes that remain, he says, " I 
have used my utmost endeavours to inform myself whether 
the peasants do not suffer oppression under the government 
of officers whom it is so difficult for the wisest laws to 
restrain, but hitherto I have not been able to discover 
instances of exaction or injustice. Here and there I have 
found some villages poorer than others, but according to 
what I have learnt, poverty in those villages arose from 
over-population, the surrounding land not being sufficient 
in extent or fertility to furnish food in abundance." 

At Archangel he engaged an Englishman to accompany 
him as interpreter, and as a sort of companion ; for 


although he had already acquired some familiarity with 
the Russian language, he did not consider himself suffi- 
ciently master of it to understand the technical terms. 

Pallas, with whom Bentham had made acquaintance in 
the south, and with whom a strict friendship ever after 
existed, furnished him with a note of places and mines par- 
ticularly worthy of notice ; and in prosecution of this plan 
so marked out, he left Archangel before the winter roads 
had broken up. At one town at which he made a halt on 
the 21st of March, a sort of contest sprung up between the 
Commandant and a rich merchant, as to which of them 
should have the privilege of entertaining him. He urged 
to the merchant that the Commandant's hospitality had 
been already accepted. The merchant hied him to the 
Commandant, and obtained permission from him for the 
transfer of the traveller to himself. They were splendidly 
lodged and entertained — magnificent counterpanes on 
their beds, silk dressing-gowns, two valets de chambre to 
attend on each of them ; (l in short," says the interpreter, 
" everything was noble " — but they lacked the China ware 
thought indispensable in an English bed-room. At length 
the valets contrived to pick up one wash-hand basin. This 
must not be set down to want of cleanliness. In Kussia 
the bath is the place for ablutions, and a heated one was 
ready for the guests next morning. The difference from 
our habits may appear strange ; but it must be remembered 
that this reception took place nearly seventy years ago. 
Since that time Russia has adopted much from countries 
to the westward of her ; yet she still retains many usages 
widely differing from ours. Indeed, persons of distinction 
not many years since, travelling on the main road from the 
Crimea to St. Petersburg, were attended by a cook carry- 
ing his culinary apparatus in his kibitka. 

In after life Bentham often related the straits to which 
he had frequently been put in Russia and Siberia, by the 
overwhelming quantities of provision with which he had 

c 3 


been presented. An example of this embarrassment oc- 
curred at Solikamisoi. The wife of the Commandant of 
the place, on the morning of his departure, sent what she 
thought necessary to allay hunger till Bentham and his 
interpreter should reach their carriage station. The 
luncheon for the two consisted of a pie composed of fowls 
and eggs, a cooked ham, two roast geese, two ducks, be- 
tween four and five pounds of fresh butter, with bread in 
proportion to the other fare — all this to be stowed away in 
a simple kibitka. In his notes he says, " It is a custom, I 
am told, amongstthese hospitable people, the first time aper- 
son comes to take up his quarters at their house, to make him 
some kind of present. I at least have found it so invariably. 
The satisfaction they seem to feel in making their present in- 
creases its value immeasurably. They have seemed to con- 
sider a present as a kind of duty they owe me, and are only 
anxious to find what would be most agreeable." Further on 
he says : — " One cannot but be surprised that crimes of all 
kinds are not more frequent in this country, where the parties 
must go perhaps a thousand versts to bring an affair to trial. 
At Cherkinska the peasant at whose house I slept, observing 
that my servant was looking out of the window to watch 
the kibitkas, told me there was no fear they would be dis- 
turbed. At present, however, the Empress is giving an 
entirely new face to her vast dominions ; different tri- 
bunals are establishing in every town. All economy, 
domestic and public, is, 'tis true, in a sad condition. The 
passion for gaming may, in a great measure, be the 
cause of the neglect of the former." An instance of the 
mechanical ingenuity of some of the native Russians was 
seen at Selsty, where a Euss shopkeeper, without educa- 
tion or instruction, made clocks that chimed the hours and 
quarters. But in Russia, as elsewhere, the aged adhere to 
old customs. At a place thirty-four versts from Verska- 
touria, the son of a peasant had cut a road through the woods 
to that place which shortened the way considerably. The 


old father never would use it, saying, that " the road which 
God had made was the best." 

26th March. — At Catherinaburg the General immedi- 
ately ordered Mdme. Turchisen's house to be prepared for 
his reception, and two gentlemen were deputed to conduct 
Bentham to his lodgings — " a very palace ' (as noted by 
his interpreter), " both in outward appearance and internal 
arrangements." In less than half an hour the General 
paid his visit of ceremony to congratulate Mr. Bentham on 
his arrival. This formal affair accomplished, the General 
proposed a walk together through the town. The opera- 
tions at the Tanetskoi Don were particularly noticed, money 
being there coined with extraordinary expedition. Each 
piece passed through eleven hands ; yet coins to the amount 
of 12,000 roubles were finished daily. After entertaining 
him at dinner, the General accompanied the traveller 
to pay visits of ceremony — in a coach of six, of course, 
Another house of Turchisen's, at which he apparently 
resided, was remarkable for its grandeur and for the very 
fine hothouses in its gardens. Turchisen had a factory 
where forty workmen were employed in manufacturing 
beautiful articles of metal solely for his use. 

Having crossed the Ural Mountains into Siberia, Bentham 
arrived at Verskatouria on the 28th of March, and was 
conducted to the principal proprietor in that neighbour- 
hood, Gregory Pogodaskina. This young man, though 
only sixteen years of age, had a month or two before been 
left by his father sole and uncontrolled proprietor of all 
his wealth, including mines, one of them amongst the 
richest of the upper mines in Siberia. The youth, attended 
by the chief persons of the place, came out upon the steps 
of his house to receive his guests. After coffee, Pogodas- 
kina accompanied them to the commander of the town. 
Verskatouria is a place of some commerce in furs, such 
as white bear skins, sables, and ermines. Two live 
sables were given to Bentham, so tame that the}^ would 

C 4 


take raisins or sweetmeats out of a person's hand or 

Bentham then proceeded to the gold mines, fifteen versts 
from the town ; they are three in number, and at a depth 
of ten Kussian fathoms, seventy English feet. Specimens 
of this mine he afterwards sent to England to Sir Joseph 
Banks, together with a large collection of other of the 
mineral productions of Siberia. What remained of his own 
collection he received twenty years later in England, but 
the valuable specimens of gold had disappeared. 

The next morning he set out to visit Pogodaskina's iron 
and copper works at a distance of 130 versts, where he 
arrived about nine the following morning. Pogodaskina, 
young as he was, was, it appears, chief manager of his 
immense concerns, and having indispensable business to 
transact at home, regretted that he could not accompany 
the traveller himself, but deputed this duty to another in 
his stead. At these works 114 poods, that is to say 4560 
pounds of copper, are run from the furnace at one time. 

"Near the factory of Kashan is the great iron mine of 
Slagkodat ; a new road had been made over a steep hill, 
from which there is a magnificent prospect. The inhabi- 
tants of the village have taste enough in summer time to 
repair to a summer-house built on the summit of the hill, 
a distance of eighty versts. 

A village, seven versts from Catherinaburg, inhabited 
by Raskolniks, gave Bentham a favourable opportunity of 
informing himself of their religious ceremonies. Under 
the guidance of an officer sent by the Governor, he in- 
quired of several persons, on entering the village, where 
the chapel was situated ? and to this they replied that 
they did not know. Recourse was then had to a merchant 
of the place, an acquaintance of the officer's. This mer- 
chant, whilst a messenger was sent to learn when the 
chapel could be visited, showed his guest a small chapel 
which he had built for the use of his family, and where 


he himself daily said morning and evening prayers. On 
entering the Raskolnik chapel, two flat pieces of iron were 
seen suspended. They are struck with an iron hammer, 
when the people are assembled ; and five large bells, one 
of them weighing a pood, are then rung. They have no 
altar, and their saints are without ornament, but are 
merely painted resemblances. Except St. Nicholas, whom 
they say they do not honour, they do not acknowledge 
any of the saints reverenced in the Eussian Church. The 
women assemble in a separate apartment, that they may 
not be seen by the men. Each person is provided with 
a square flat cushion to lay on the ground when he 
lies down. On being asked whether they were persecuted 
by the Russians they replied in the negative, but added 
that they had formerly been so, and were afraid of it even 
now, as they were determined to adhere to their own re- 
ligion. Her Imperial Majesty has commanded head 
money of thirty-five copecs to be paid by Raskolnik 
women, which is never imposed upon those of the Russian 
Church, and an addition of seventy-five copecs per man 
above what a Russian pays — this tax, Bentham subse- 
quently added, is now taken off. They are (in common 
with Russians) obliged to supply their quota of recruits 
for the army, but take care to send those that are 
least attached to their religion. He learnt, on return- 
ing to the Governor's, that, while the Raskolniks were 
persecuted by the Government, they inflicted great cruelties 
on themselves and on their families, rather than change 
their religion. The Empress on hearing the tortures which 
they imposed upon themselves, decreed that twenty years 
should be allowed them for reflection, and in the mean- 
time, that by means- of persuasion an endeavour should be 
made to unite them with the Russian Church, but this 
leniency did not appear to have any good effect. 

9th April. — He set off for Nijni Taghil in the Go- 
vernor's calesh with four post horses, a hussar behind the 


carriage, and a soldier in advance to order change of 
horses. Xij ni Taghil, an iron factory, the property of 
Count DemidofT, is 140 versts northward of Catherinaburg. 
The owner of the works had furnished him letters to the 
intendant, containing orders to show him everything that 
he wished to see, to afford him all the information he 
might require, and moreover to do any works for him that 
he might have occasion for, as carriages, &c. Bentham 
had travelled thither in kibitkas on sledges with the 
winter roads, and now needed a carriage on wheels for 
summer travelling. The people proposed making him 
one of the usual description, but considering the journey 
which he had in view, he said that one of the ordinary 
construction would not content him. He therefore con- 
trived a vehicle that might suit his purpose as a wheel 
carriage on land, a boat in water, and a sledge on ice. 
This carriage was manufactured while the winter roads 
were broken up, and the summer ones were not yet 
passable. He had not only to mark out himself every 
single piece of wood put into it, but was often obliged to 
work as hard as any of the workmen in executing those 
parts which could not be explained to them. In a letter to 
his brother, dated April 25th, from Nijni Taghil, he says, 
" The inhabitants, with regard to their manners, are very 
falsely described," and afterwards in speaking of the 
hospitable reception which travellers in general receive in 
this country, he says that the proprietor, Mr. DemidofT, was 
then at Moscow, but that " his house here, his servants, 
table, equipage, &c, I am at present master of. If you 
are not engaged some day next week, and will come and 
take a dinner or supper with me, whichever is most con- 
venient, I shall be very glad to see you. I mention it only 
lest, hearing that nobody comes to the table here without 
my express invitation, your bashfulness might deprive me 
of the pleasure of your company. Besides soups, you 
will find, every day beef, mutton, pork, dressed each in 



several different ways, also geese, ducks, and fowls. You 
need not, however, criticise the etiquette in serving up the 
poultry, or find fault with the sauces. Don't make it a 
tea-table talk at your return if you should see one dish 
contain a goose and a fowl, another a duck and a fowl laid 
head and tail on, one up on end against the other, all 
shrunk by the heat of the oven to half their former size, 
and the dry remains of the flesh ready to drop from the 
bones at the first touch — dry, I mean only in the inside, 
for the outside shines from the oily butter in which 
they almost swim. You love pastry, you will find some of 
different sorts, or rather in different shapes, and a great 
abundance of each. AVith such fare, however, by the 
assistance of champagne and other French wines and 
English beer, you may be able to exist for a single day. 
The wines are brought about 2000 versts overland. So 
much as I have seen of this country of Siberia, I have 
always found something more than the bare necessaries of 
life. At Tolchamskaja, a town further to the north, 
though without the boundaries of Siberia, I saw, besides 
other hothouse plants, 500 as fine orange and lemon trees 
as I ever saw an) r where. By-the-by what an infamous, ma- 
licious, lying work that is of the Abbe Chapuis ; have you 
read the antidote to it ? It is said to be written by the Prin- 
cess Dashkoff; her criticisms are in general, as far as I 
am able to inform myself, exceedingly just, but now and 
then her partiality for her country carries her too for." In 
reference to the growing practice in Russia of availing 
themselves of aid from abroad, he says : " To pretend to 
say that arts and manufactures are brought to the same 
degree of perfection here as in other countries, would be to 
condemn the practice of engaging foreigners ; " but turning 
his thoughts to the unjust accounts that travellers had 
given of Russia, particularly the eastern parts and Siberia, 
he adds, " If I were disposed to criticise and condemn (yet 
from what I have seen there is more done here for the 


good of the country than there is done at home), I might 
say that in some places there are too many people here 
who have more interest in injuring than in benefiting 
others ; but when I have made this remark, I have found 
that the interest of the superior is rather to protect than 
to injure those under him. When I have noticed anything 
that seemed to the prejudice of Government or of those 
who are disposed to favour it, I proposed questions to the 
most intelligent people in the country. I propose them in 
such a way as to get their opinion before I give my own, 
and it frequently happens from the reasons which they give 
me that I feel ashamed of having formed such an opinion. 
I wish the Abbe could have done the like ; his book would 
have been as opposite as possible to what it is." 

April 12th. — The design for the amphibious carriage 
being completed, the work was begun, and it afforded 
occupation for Bentham a great part of every day, in 
chalking out upon the floor the form and dimensions of 
the boat and the disposition and scantlings of its parts. 
When the carriage was built he described it to his brother 
as nothing more than a vehicle hung as usual on springs, 
and when intended for land service suspended on wheels, 
but the body was of the novel shape of a boat. For water 
service, easy means were provided for detaching the 
carriage from the wheels, so that when taken to pieces 
they might be stowed away in the bottom of the body, 
serving then as ballast when the vehicle is used as a boat. 
When it was completed, he set out in it for Perme, where 
it afforded no small amusement to the inhabitants. Beins: 
engaged to dine with the Governor, Bentham just before 
the appointed hour sailed up the river in his amphibious 
vehicle in full view of the well-filled windows of the 
Government house; after dinner it presented itself in 
another form upon wheels and drawn by three horses to 
the door. It fully answered the purpose for which it was 
contrived, — rapid .and certain means of conveyance in a 


country intersected with rivers, but ill provided with 

During the construction of the carriage, Mr. Bentham's 
observation of the slowness with which workers in wood 
operated, and of the frequent inaccuracy of their work, led 
him to think that machinery might be substituted with 
great advantage for manual labour in the fashioning of that 
material. In consequence of this opinion he considered 
various means of realising his ideas ; and here it was that 
the first foundation was laid of his subsequent inventions 
of machinery. He first caused a working model to be 
made of a machine which he devised for planing wood. 
As this model was found to answer its intended purpose, 
he forthwith had a planing machine made of full size for 
large works, which did its duty equally well. He after- 
wards consulted Sir James Harris as to the bringing his 
invention forward, and whether there were any probability 
of his deriving some such advantage from it in Eussia as 
in England might be derived by patent. Sir James 
counselled him to " look forward to old England for the 
first recompense of his ingenuity." Eelating this to his 
brother, Mr. Bentham observes, " this, however, does not 
prevent my trying some experiments, although it sets me 
wavering in regard to some of my inventions." 

During a drive round Nijni Taghil on Sunday the 
16th of April a number of fine houses were noticed, indi- 
cating that the inhabitants were rich and at their ease, the 
people about all of them lively, smartly dressed, and very 
clean. In one street a number of girls assembled together 
were dancing, singing, and running about, while the men 
were standing round to look at them ; others were playing 
cricket and other games. In this and other streets several 
hundreds were so assembled and seemed to enjoy them- 
selves greatly. 

A great magazine of flour was kept up by Count Demi- 
doff when flour was to be purchased at a low price, as 


fourteen copecs a pood, he caused a large quantity to be 
stored ; and when the price rose to twenty-two copecs, the 
magazine was opened and the flour sold to the poor at its 
cost price. Some days were spent in examining the man- 
ner in which the iron is sent off in barks to St. Peters- 
burg, and in a letter dated April 14th he says: "You may 
know, perhaps, that there is no communication whatever 
by water between the European and Asiatic parts of this 
country. Mr. Demidoff 's fabrics being on the Asiatic side, 
he has a wharf on the river Chasavry on the European 
side. By transporting his iron in winter by sledge roads, 
he can send it from thence entirely by water to St. Peters- 
burg. I went to this place to see the loading and setting 
off of his barges. He sent this year fifty-four of them, 
each carrying about 7000 poods of iron, about 111 tons 

18th. — Bentham contrived a machine to be applied 
to General Bashkin's carriage to show the number of 
versts it travelled over. To-day he went to the painters. 
In the same street lived several Baskolniks, who take all 
their water for washing or drinking, not from rivers, 
but from wells, of which they use several in the street. 
Bentham, who in going along saw one of the poles for 
drawing up buckets fixed at an unusually great height, 
tried whether much force was required to immerse and 
then raise the bucket filled with water. He found it was 
easily effected, but as he looked to see whether the water 
was clean, an old Baskolnik, imagining the heretic was 
about to drink, called out to him to wait till he had 
brought a glass. Bentham was preparing to throw the 
water back into the well when the old man ran to prevent 
him. He afterwards learnt that the Raskolniks, besides 
considering it a sin to drink after a person not of their own 
religion, even do not drink out of a vessel that has been 
used by their wives ; and had Bentham thrown the water 
into the well again, it would have been reconsecrated. 


May 5th. — The Prata Pope having sent to say that he 
was about to marry a couple, Bentham went to the church 
to witness the ceremony. As the bridegroom had no 
parent alive, one of the priests stood at his right hand as 
father, the bride's mother at the left of her daughter. 
The bride's face was covered with a handkerchief, which 
was taken off by the mother, as the priest, advancing, put 
a piece of coarse linen on the ground for the bride and 
bridegroom to put each of thern one foot upon. The bride 
stood with the air of a criminal, not daring to raise her 
eyes from the ground. One of the priests then brought 
two wax candles to the Prata Pope, who took one of them, 
and having it in his hand, crossed the bridegroom thrice. 
The young man then crossed himself, received the candle 
from the priest, and kissed his hand. A similar ceremony 
was repeated with the other candle and the bride. The 
priest read a prayer, after which, turning to the couple 
he took both their rings, and went behind the altar, 
another priest reading a prayer the while. At the Prata 
Pope's return he asked the young couple their names: 
whether it was from true love they wished to be united, 
and whether either of them were under promise to another 
person. These questions having been satisfactorily answered, 
prayers were again offered up, and incense brought by a 
priest to incense the images. The Prata Pope then returned 
the rings to the young couple with the same forms with 
which he had received them. They change rings, the bride- 
groom putting his ring upon the bride's finger. A silver 
cup of wine is then brought to the Prata Pope; — the young 
couple cross themselves; — the cup is given to them to sip 
from alternately two or three times, till between them its 
contents have been sipped up. Two gilt cups with crosses 
upon them are then brought to the priest which, with the 
same ceremonies, are put into their hands, which he after- 
wards joins together. Then taking both their hands so 
joined, he leads them round the Holy Bible three times, 


singing to them the whole time. A boy reads the duty of a 
husband to his wife, and of a wife to a husband ; the Pope 
gives them his blessing and desires them to kiss one another 
thrice, and thus the ceremony ends. The Prata Pope was 
invited to dine with Bentham, which he did at half-past 
twelve o'clock (that, and till one o'clock, being the usual 
dinner time ; from nine to ten supper ; breakfast at about 
seven, tea at all times of the day and upon every visit of 
ceremony or friendship). 

May 12th. — The Prata Pope dined with Bentham. The 
conversation turning on the Kaskolniks, the Prata Pope 
said that, rather less than fifteen years since, when they 
were obliged by the Russian authorities to change their 
religion, these Raskolniks used to assemble in numbers 
of from twenty to thirty, to burn themselves alive — they 
even burnt and murdered their children. They assem- 
bled in a house prepared for the occasion, with fire- 
wood, hemp, pitch, and whatever combustibles could be 
obtained, in the midst of which they seated themselves. 
Some, not considering themselves worthy of God's blessing, 
or fearful of being able to endure the pain, ordered them- 
selves to be tied ; the pile was then set on fire. The priest 
said he had received information that a party of thirty had 
assembled for the purpose of burning themselves, though 
it is seldom that notice is taken of such self-sacrifices till 
they are accomplished. On that occasion the Prata Pope, 
with all his priests, set out for the place indicated, but 
had the misfortune not to arrive till too late. He saw 
several dead bodies burnt to ashes ; his clerk took up bones 
of the dead, and lingered in the smoke till it had such an 
effect upon him, together with general excitement, that 
he would not leave the place, saying that he too should 
be blessed if he burnt himself also. He was influenced to 
so great a degree, that the Prata Pope was obliged to keep 
him under strict guard for four days. The Paskolniks 
(or Kirgakies, as otherwise called) used to put their 


children to death in various ways, as by burning, drawing, 
stifling, &c. Sometimes they burned their bones to ashes, 
and pounding them very fine, mixed a very little in food 
and drink. 

May 17 th. — A small boat was brought to the Factory to 
be fitted with sails of Bentham's contrivance, which should 
themselves change their position, and carry the boat on, 
steering straight, without even a man on board. The 
weather was so fine as to admit of drinking tea in the open 
air at the bottom of a hill, and to remain reading and 
writing till eight o'clock, by the water-side. 

May 2Mli. — Bentham made an excursion to the Factory 
of Kushva, distant forty-five versts, not setting out till 
three in the afternoon. It was eleven at night before he 
arrived at Kushva. His visit was unexpected, and the 
Colonel-Commandant had lately died, so that it rested 
with the Mayor to do the honours of the place. He 
assigned the Colonel's house as lodging for the travelling 
party of four persons, with their attendants. The supper 
was not on table before twelve o'clock, but it was excel- 
lent in kind, and exquisitely cooked and served. Amongst 
various other things there was fine fresh butter, Parmesan 
cheese, a delicious fowl soup, with vegetables, a fat capon, 
beef steaks — all this at an out-of-the-way place on the 
Ural Mountains. 

On the 19th of June Mr. Bentham set out on an excur- 
sion to Catherinaburg. 

Notes were taken indicating the return of warm weather 
by the progress of vegetation and otherwise. The first 
salad that appeared at table was on the 13th of May. 
On the 1 9th June the heat was so great, that bed-chamber 
windows were left open all night ; roses, and other wild 
flowers were gathered in the woods; snipe was shot on 
the 20th; and hay-making began on the 12th July. 

In a letter dated July 11th, Nijni Taghil, speaking of 
this long excursion of about 2200 versts, he says : " The 



country I have been riding through is in general very 
beautiful ; a great part of the way I appeared to be going 
through an English park. The weather was very fine, the 
hay perfumed the air, and one can seldom go ten or a 
dozen miles without seeing a river or rivulet. Birch trees 
and the several different kinds of firs form a principal part 
of the roads. The birch -tree is in great abundance, and grows 
to a large size, but it is a very unprofitable production in 
this part of the country, though so valuable near Arch- 
angel. It is the best of the fir-trees for building ships ; but 
as the woods are used here only to make charcoal for the 
mines — and this makes the worst of charcoal — it is almost 
entirely useless. Corn but seldom thoroughly ripens on the 
ground, so that the cultivation of it is not much followed. 
It is a good crop that produces tenfold what was sown, 
whereas in the Government of New Eussia it is said to 
produce a hundredfold. The puddles were covered with 
ice for some nights together, near three weeks ago, and the 
appearance of winter comes on apace." Eavens seem to 
have abounded, for he sends bundles of quills to his brother, 
" enough to supply your harpsichord for your lifetime. It 
is in this country that the happy effects of a reformation 
in jurisprudence is to be seen daily ; parts of the new code 
which make their appearance from time to time prove the 
attention that is still given to this subject. 

"What think you of a governor who rules over 110,000 
people, whose sole object is to avail himself of the power 
given him only to produce as much happiness as he 
can ? Such a man it is my good fortune to have formed 
a friendship with. His name is Lamb ; he says he is 
English, or rather of Scotch extraction. An ancestor of 
his was taken into the service of a Czar before Peter the 
Great; but in short, this is a matter so little interesting 
compared to his good qualities that I have forgotten it.*' 
To account for delay in the completion of a machine for 



working wood, he says that it had been retarded by "the 
six weeks' holidays at this season of the year for the men 
to make their hay," — an instance of consideration for the 
workmen in an immense factory rarely to be met with in 
any country but Eussia. 

D 2 



Perme — Improvements in Mining Pumps — Cavern near Perme— Collec- 
tion of Minerals — Arrival at Tobolsk, January 1782 — Introduction to 
the Anchree — Population of Siberia — State of Crime — Arrival at 
Krasnojarsch — Mines at Narchinsk — The Chinese Frontier — Kiachta — 
Visit to the Chinese Governor — Chinese Temples and Images — Fortune- 
telling — Intercourse between Russians and Chinese. 

He was present at the ceremony of the first opening, in 
October 1781, of the new Grovernmen; of Perme, but his 
chief object at this place was to collect information re- 
specting the country between that place and the frontier 
of China, as what he had already seen in Siberia led him 
to expect much useful addition to his knowledge by under- 
taking an extensive tour in that country. The greater 
part of the Government of Perme is the property of the 
Strogonoffs, and he had much satisfaction in rendering 
them some little service. They derive a considerable 
revenue from the salt mines, which they work on their 
own account, selling the salt at a fixed price to the Crown. 
On examining the several operations carried on in raising 
the salt water, and for crystallising the salt from it, 
Mr. Bentham found room for great improvements. He 
suggested means of confining the fire-heat to the boilers 
instead of losing, perhaps, some tenths of it, as also 
a manner of employing the heat of steam from the 
composition for warming a supply of the solution. But 
perhaps the most advantageous improvement that he 
devised, was an alteration of the pumps for raising the 
brine from underground. The pipes through which the 


brine was pumped up were very small, the operation of 
boring holes to a great depth being laborious and costly, and 
the expense and difficulty of it increasing considerably in 
proportion to an increase of their size. The then existing 
pumps, though kept constantly going, never exhausted the 
solution, so that Count Strogonoff had determined on a 
costly work of two or three years' duration in boring more 
holes. But Mr. Bentham had noticed that the sucking- 
pumps in use only voided the fluid intermittingly, so that 
when the piston was raised, the fluid below was at rest 
during a time equal to that of the descent of the piston. 
His simple device, therefore, was to have the upper part 
of the pipe made double, with two pistons working in the 
two pipes, these terminating in one pipe at the fixed valve. 
Thus, by causing the pistons to work alternately, the fluid 
from the lower pipe rose in a perpetual stream. The 
double pipe, carried down to a depth of forty- nine feet, 
was in a part where the ground is always opened to a 
large diameter for other purposes ; it was in the remainder 
of the total depth of 245 feet that the great saving was 

During his stay at Perme, he visited a cavern celebrated 
for its minerals, and relates his exploring adventures as 
follows : — "In the evening I set out for the cavern, in 
which I spent two days and a night, as I found when I 
came out, for all is darkness there, and I happened not 
to have my watch with me. The entrance to this cavern 
might well put me in mind of poor Gil Bias' residence. 
It is true the one I was in was not covered with a trap- 
door, but the hole was so small that such a precaution 
would have been unnecessary. Although there was snow 
on the ground, it was necessary to pull off all but my 
waistcoat not to run the risk of sticking by the way. 
Thus prepared we crouched on our stomachs for eight or 
ten fathoms. We then were able to raise ourselves up on 
our hands and knees, soon afterwards on our feet in a 

D 3 


stooping position, and in about a hundred fathoms we 
came to a spacious vault-like opening : it was, as you may 
imagine, much warmer than above ground. My com- 
panions consisted of my interpreter and a servant, with 
ei^ht or nine peasants, some of whom had been several 
times, and had penetrated as far as their fears would let 
them. These gave an account of a lake which they had 
seen, or rather heard something plunge at their approach ; 
but no one had ever attempted to pass that lake. The 
site or rock in which this cavern is formed, consists of 
calcareous stone of a greenish colour. The water from 
above, as it filters through into the cavern, forms crystals 
of various figures ; it is in search of such curiosities that 
people have, from time to time, been sent here. I went 
partly with the same views, but more, perhaps, with the 
expectation of observing something which, in those who 
had been sent there, might through fear, ignorance, or 
laziness, have passed unnoticed. We had a provision of a 
pood, or thirty-six English pounds, of candles with us, so 
that, supposing they would burn, we were in little danger 
of wanting light. As our course was up and down pre- 
cipices, of ten or twenty feet in height, and we had each of 
us a basket or bottle of provisions of some kind to en- 
cumber us, we were not very expeditious. The distance 
to this lake had been magnified to about twelve English 
miles, but, however, after turning round and round two or 
three times to the same place, in about four hours we 
arrived where this lake ought to have been. Xothii , 
however, but a puddle, a little over one's ankles, appeared, 
and in a few fathoms we came to the end, which was no 
more remarkable than any other part ; but by my compass 
I perceived that in our course we sometimes turned quite 
round : I cannot conceive the distance to be above three- 
fourths of a mile. We now began to be hungry and 
f'.itigued, but found it necessary to return about halt* way 
before we found a convenient place to spread our table. 


Some fine English cheese, which Sir James Harris had 
supplied me with at my setting out from St. Petersburg, 
with some English beer which Baron Shwonoff had 
ordered to be packed up with a store of other provisions 
for the occasion, made the most remarkable part of my 
fare during my subterraneous residence. As nothing was 
to be had to lie on but stones, in the choice of a bed place 
the object was to find one stone, or a number of stones 
nearly in one level, of a sufficient length to stretch our- 
selves out upon. I had with me a large Spanish cloak, 
to which I have been under great obligations on such 
occasions. This I wrapped nearly twice round me, and 
stretched myself out on one entire stone with a small one, 
and my great coat upon it for a pillow. The rest did as 
well as they could ; and after seeing that half a dozen 
candles were fixed up, besides a little fire made up of bits 
of wood that had been left at other times, I, no doubt, in 
a few minutes made the cavern echo with my snoring, 
and slept very sound for four or five hours ; when at 
my waking, to my no small astonishment, all was dark- 
ness. My interpreter, who was just by me at the same 
time, let me know that the last candle was put out by 
some water that dropped upon it from above, and that 
he had just time, before that happened, to observe that 
all the men were gone away. This was enough to alarm 
me, as without light we neither of us could move a yard 
without danger of falling down a precipice of eighteen 
or twenty feet. It was absolutely in vain to have the 
least thought of making our way out of the cavern with- 
out assistance. However, I comforted myself and him 
with the idea of having provisions within my reach, 
which would be enough for a week or a fortnight, and 
that on any supposition whatever, the same, or other 
men, would come to see what would become of us in that 
time. We had not, however, the pleasure of making our 
reflections on tins situation above half an hour when a 

D 4 


glimmering light appeared towards the way out. In any 
country but this (not excepting England) I should have 
been under some anxiety at seeing a light, from the doubt 
I should have whether it might be friends or foes who 
brought it. It proved to be two boys, whose business it 
had been to look after the horses which were left near the 
mouth of the cavern, and whom the men had sent to us in 
their stead. We could learn nothing from these boys as 
to the reason why the men had left us ; all that they could 
tell was that they were laid down to sleep on the outside 
of the cavern by a good fire. Although I was determined 
not to quit the place till I had explored all the windings 
in it, yet I thought the most certain way of getting the 
men back was to go and fetch them. Therefore, loading 
ourselves with some of the choicest stores we had collected, 
we made our way out into the open air time enough to 
find all the men asleep before a large fire. The reasons 
they gave for leaving us were simple enough : they were 
too tired to go through another day's fatigue without 
sleeping, and they could not sleep in so cold a place. 
You must understand that Russian peasants are used to 
sleep in a degree of heat which would be very disagreeable 
to those who were not accustomed to it. They said they 
had left six candles burning, and had sent the two boys as 
soon as they could. I stayed half an hour by the fire, and 
in the mean time divided my company into three detach- 
ments, for the purpose of taking different courses for the 
better exploring all the parts of the cave. I cut a great 
number of small pieces of paper of three different figures, 
of which each detachment took a different figure, so as 
that by scattering these pieces of paper in the way, one 
party might know where the other had been. Thus pre- 
pared we returned to our subterraneous employment. We 
were now so well experienced in the scrambling up and 
down the steep places, that in about seven or eight hours 
there was not a hole but what some part of the company 


had been in; after which, collecting together the stones that 
we had selected from the different parts, we, with no small 
pains, made our way out with them, and set off on our 
return. The colour of our clothes, skin, and every thing 
we had about us, however different they might have been 
before, were now all alike. After all, in this same cave, I 
could find no indications of its ever having served for 
habitation for either man or beast ; nothing alive was to 
be found but bats or winged mice and gnats. The former 
were in great plenty ; the latter, which more likely had 
taken shelter on the approach of winter, were but in small 
quantities, and these, though they settled on our hands 
and faces, had not seemingly strength to bite. All then 
I got for my pains, besides a good collection of calcareous 
crystallisations and stalactites, such as had already been 
procured from this cave, was some specimens of one 
or two sorts, such as I had not seen in the possession of 
anybody else. Hitherto everybody had been deterred 
from penetrating to the end of this subterraneous chasm 
from fear and impatience of fatigue. It was an affair of 
three days." 

The making a collection of minerals had become an 
object of no small importance to him. It now remained 
to have forwarded to St. Petersburg three or four thousand 
pounds' weight of cojmer and iron ores, specimens of crystals, 
(fee, " all chosen specimens, even here on the spot," which 
were afterwards transmitted to England, and distributed to 
Lord Shelburne, and other friends. These specimens had 
been collected in the course of the above-mentioned excur- 
sions of fourteen or fifteen hundred miles on horseback, 
during the time that his head-quarters were at Nijni 

At Perme Mr. Bentham received a circular letter, under 
a flying seal from Prince Viasemsky, Minister of the Civil 
Department, requesting the commanders of the several 
districts through which Bentham might pass, to give 


him all the aid in their power for the furtherance of his 

At the same time an Imperial ukase gave orders that 
Major SoginofY should accompany Mr. Bentham to the 
borders of China and other distant places, as he had re- 
quested. Prince Viasemsky had also suggested by letter 
to Sir James Harris that Mr. Bentham on his return should 
pass by Taganrog, by the newly added Eussian provinces, 
to visit Cherson. The Prince also furnished him with no 
less than eighteen private letters of recommendation to 
different governors and other Bussians of rank, to which 
were added nine from Prince Potemkin, and about 
seventy others from various friends to different influential 

"It is now January 1st, 1782, O.S. — I believe my 
birthday according to your heretical way of counting. If 
you have not forgotten me to-day at Queen Square Place, 
and have any sympathy in you, you will begin a letter to 
me this very evening. I am on my way to Tobolsk." 

He had dismissed his interpreter at Perme, and was now 
accompanied by Major SogiuorT, and was attended by a 
corporal and a grenadier, appointed especially to serve him 
during the journey. They none of them understood any 
language but Euss, but by this time Bentham had become 
master of it. 

13f/i January. — Having arrived at Tobolsk at about 
eight in the morning, he found no news of quarters being- 
prepared for him. The Governor was ill in bed, and the 
Place Major escorted him to a cold house, on which 
Bentham says he "took miff," and ordered fresh horses 
immediately, as he had sent a letter to the Govern or, 
giving two days' notice of his arrival. He, however, sent 
Matrei Ivanovitch to the Governor to know whether the 
letter had been received. Then came apologies in answer, 
a pressing invitation to stay a longer time, and saying that 
the letter had not been forwarded. The Place Major took 


him to a better house and a warmer one; then further 
invitations to remain longer at Tobolsk were followed 
by the Governor's chariot and six, with two footmen, also 
a guard of honour, a serjeant and six soldiers, to learn 
how and where he would have them placed. He declined 
them as a guard, but accepted the services of three of 
them to attend in their turn, one at a time, as sentinel at 
his door. 

After dining with the Governor, Bent-ham took his leave, 
and called at the Ancliree's (Archbishop), with a letter of 
introduction from General Kashkin. The Anchree came to 
meet him at the very door, so that he was taken for a do- 
mestic, and not spoken to till Matrei Ivanovitch kissed his 
hand. They were presently seated in his apartment, the 
letter read, and conversation commenced. It turned upon 
the climate and productions of Eussia compared to England 
— the Anchree had a hot-house, but could not succeed with 
fruit — talked of China and the Archimandrite there. " His 
air and conversation showed him to be quite the simple 
bonhomme that I had heard he was, without the least eccle- 
siastical importance. From him went to the Vice-Governor; 
his wife to all appearance French, though really Euss. Three 
or four were at cards, one of whom addressed me to let me 
know it was an English game they were playing. He was 
a man between forty and fifty ; forty-six as he afterwards 
said ; very lively in conversation, which he seemed upon 
some occasions pretty much to engross. The Governor's 
lady exceedingly sprightly, gay, and pleasing, if not a beaut) 7 . 
Cards, on my account, were soon at an end, and this man 
placed himself between the lady and me. He spoke a few 
words of English, said he had known it, but for these dozen 
years had lost it for want of practice. It so happened we 
talked of laws and new government, and I of the clemency 
of the penal laws in particular, compared to those of other 
nations, not excepting my own. After taking my leave, I 
was not a little surprised that this facetious engrosser of 


the conversation was Poushkin, the man banished for 
forging bank notes." 

I4:th. — " In the morning inquired about the fabric of 
lacquered furniture in the Chinese fashion, but found that 
there is only one man that does it, and that he has not 
always work ; at present he had none that I could see. So 
with respect to furs and Chinese commodities, no stock is 
kept here, the merchants only transport their commodities 
through the place. 

"Went to see Volodinenoff, one of the capital merchants; 
found him in a nasty saloop (a kind of loose dressing- 
gown). I asked him if the master of the house was at home. 
He told me he was the master himself. After presenting 
brandy, tea-kettle and tea apparatus was brought into the 
room, with bread and butter, cream in a cream-pot, which 
was set in an empty basin, serving as slop basin, into 
which boiling water was poured to heat the cream. He 
showed me some tiger skins, which the Buchanans bring 
to the borders; he deals also in other furs from Beresofska, 
where he had been himself; said much of the honesty of 
the people there; that they suffer any injury to themselves 
rather than molest a stranger ; that they have no bread ; 
they do not live in large villages, but dispersed about the 
banks of those rivers which afford them most fish, and 
in woods where there are most animals for furs. They 
give furs in exchange for linen for shirts, coarse cloth, 
tobacco, &c. 

"The Governor says the barks made use of are the 
worst possible for expedition ; they are square at both 
ends, frequently without even oars — sails are never thought 
of: this is the reason why water transport by the Irtish 
is not more used, but if they could be brought to build 
better vessels, it would be much more expeditious.*' 

" At the Governor's to dinner, he still in bed. Poushkin 
was there. We talked of the manner in which Siberia 
became peopled : lstly. Permission was given to the nobi- 


lity to send any of their peasants there, in consideration of 
which they were excused from giving the like number of 
soldiers. 2ndly. By those sent for crimes. This may 
be considered as an artifice by which the required number 
of soldiers was kept up. 3rdly. By Easkolniks who came 
to take shelter from the persecution which they suffered in 
other parts of the empire. 4thly. Individuals purchased 
by barter from the Kirgees ; but these are all Calmucks, 
or at least go under that name, and do not amount to one 
hundred in a year; according to the reports of last year 
there were but twenty. 5thly. Eussians, who, even before 
consent was given by government, used to come hunting, 
and returned with what they procured, but by degrees 
settled themselves. Gthly. A colony of Bucharians, about 
thirty years ago, settled in the town, but they now are 
mixed in great part with the Eussians. 7thly. Tartars, 
ancient inhabitants of Siberia, with several other tribes, 
who scarcely, and but by slow degrees, mix with the 

" Murders there have been none, during the three years 
that the Governor has been here, and only two attempts at 
robberies ; one of them was on a merchant, known to have 
much' money. He was attacked on returning from Irbit 
fair ; he fired a gun and they ran away : in the other case 
some merchandise was forcibly taken from a merchant, 
near Tomsk. In the town of Tobolsk, small robberies 
now and then happen, but are always discovered, as they 
are committed only by pilferers, who go immediately 
to the cabacs to get drunk with the profits of their thefts. 
They talk of thirty-four and thirty-six degrees of cold 

" The part of the country called the Baraba desert is 
not without wood, but it is birch only, and for the most 
part consisting of old trees, without any appearance of 
young ones to supply their places. Within 150 versts of 
Tomsk, the face of the country changes, it becomes hilly 


about the rivers. The weather warm or scarcely freezing, 
and the buds on the trees begin to swell. 

" ^^ T hen we were within two posts of Tomsk, I sent the 
soldier on with the order from the Governor to the Com- 
mander, requesting, at the same time, quarters to be pre- 
pared, and the bath to be heated. The quarters assigned 
me were at the principal merchant's, where, soon after our 
arrival, came the Commander, a stout jolly subject, French- 
man by birth and family, but had been forty-five }^ears in 
the Eussian service. He eno-ao-ed me to take coffee at his 
house, and was so urgent in his request that I would dine 
with him next day that I could not refuse ; notwith- 
standing my wish to hasten on to Kiachta, sat with him till 
ten in the evening, after which a soft bed was not unwel- 


" On the 26th arrived at Krasnojarsh." .... Here a 
chasm occurs in his journal, but he appears to have passed 
some little time amongst the Bratski, nomades in the 
Government of Tobolsk, and to have obtained a good deal 
of information respecting this people. He says : " The 
Tonjmses and the Bratski have not the least commu- 
nication or intercourse with each other, their languages 
are totally different, and their religion also ; although in 
their manner of living, they so much resemble each other. 
The Bratski, Mongol, and Don Cossack languages are 
very nearly the same, as many of the Bratski read and 
write the Mongol language, which is all the writing they 
have. Their books are only religious. If they are super- 
stitious, they are neither fanatics nor intolerant. The 
principal religious injunctions are very moral, and as 
they are drawn up, they may be made to give sanction to 
any salutary injunctions whatever. The number of cattle 
they keep arises from religious sanction. The head 
Bratski has about seventy camels, which sell for about 
thirty roubles a piece ; he has also from six to fifteen horses. 
The camel's hair is cut off in the spring, and is used to make 


thread and small string. Camels have young once in two 
years : they will carry forty pood ; but when loaded with 
only twenty-five, they will travel with it thirty versts a day." 

" One particular Bratski, Fedenka, seemed much to 
wish to go with me ; he is a servant to one of his tribe who 
serves the post ; he receives as wages ten roubles ; he is 
eighteen years of age, no wife or much hope of procuring 
one, as parents do not give their daughters without a good 
price in cattle, from six or eight to one hundred head of 
large cattle, camels, horses, ,or oxen. If few have no more 
than one wife, it is because they are not rich enough to 
afford more; those who can afford it have two, three, four 
or five wives. They suffer much from cold and from 
hunger ; they eat but once a day, and that of their dried 
meat. We treated them with fresh butter, and different 
meats I had with me. They devoured the feast with great 
expressions of joy. They are also very fond of bread, 
although not accustomed to it. Dirty scrapings flung on 
the floor they gathered up, and never left what a dog or 
cat would have eaten. 

" At about three versts from the village of Nicolai, a 
view of the sea of Baikal presents itself. It is seen be- 
tween the mountains where they divide and give an outlet 
to the Angora; at the same time the prospect between those 
hills is bounded by the great mountains near 100 versts 
on the other side of the sea. These mountains are still 
almost covered with snow, only those prominences the 
most exposed to the sun being as }^et thawed. We passed 
by Mcolai wharf to Listvenishna, ten versts further. The 
road was dirty on account of the late rains, and two or 
three rivulets, which we drove across, were not furnished 
with bridges, though . the water came up nearly over the 
fore wheels. These rivulets, falling with great velocity 
from the hills on the left, contributed to the forming some 
delightful spots. The young birch trees and a variety of 
flowers added to the general luxuriance of the ground, 


giving all between the mountains and the river the appear- 
ance of those situations most prized in England. 

" To add to the repast we were preparing for ourselves 
at Listvenishna, I sent for wild nettles, of which two sorts 
were brought. The people were surprised that such things 
were good to eat, but when I had boiled them, the dish was 
relished by all the company. For myself I thought them 
little inferior to spinach. 

" On the way to Narchinsk chance presented an instance 
of the mechanical ingenuity of a peasant. It was a trap 
for wild animals, in which the bait was attached to the 
string of a bow in such manner that the elasticity of the 
bow was such as to occasion the fall of the trap on the 
slightest motion of the string. On reaching another 
fabric we made an excursion of half a dozen versts to a 
spring of Seltzer water. It is in a pleasant vale, sur- 
rounded by hills. The spring issues from a hole nearly 
in the lowest part of the vale. After spreading itself for 
about twenty yards it runs into the river. At present it is 
frozen so as not to run, but a hole of a foot diameter is 
broken through the ice (now six inches thick), and here 
the water is taken up." 

25 th February. — At Narchinsk he found a serjeant waiting 
at the first guard-house to conduct him to the lodgings 
which had been for a week prepared for him. They be- 
longed to the possessor of the only silver mines that were 
in private hands. On examining plans of the different 
mines in the vicinity, there appeared a great w T ant of 
economy in the manner of their exploitation. 

In the smelting of the lead ore containing silver, he says 
that, " at the instant the last of the lead is drawn off the 
silver remains. This is taken out, in general, in lumps; but 
lest small pieces should remain, which might be pilfered, 
iron grates are put to the aperture, and a chain passing 
round them is sealed in the presence of an officer." From 
thence to the laboratory, where the director was proving a 


mineral which he found to be a rich ore of bismuth ; then 
to that gentleman's lodgings, which were at the school. He 
had a small collection of minerals, and the beginning: of a 
cabinet, intended to be appropriated to the Crown. In 
this collection specimens of every variety of mine are 
lodged, with marks affixed, referring to like numbers on 
the plans of the several mines, showing the parts of them 
from which each specimen is taken. This cabinet when 
completed, at the same time that it will exhibit the several 
varieties which this part of the country affords, will give 
an excellent description of the component parts of each 
mine, in as far as it has been worked. Such a description 
of cabinet cannot but assist a judicious mineralogist in his 
researches as to new mines, and new manners of working 
them, as well as in continuing to advantage the working of 
the present mines." 

" The river Angora, which forms the boundary to the 
Chinese frontier, is but ten versts from Narchinsk. The 
water of the Angora is very good, and deep enough for 
the largest boats. The country all around, as far as could 
be seen, exceedingly hilly ; scarcely any wood to be seen ; 
what little there was, very small, but at the same time the 
country is fertile in iron." 

" At 9 in the morning on the following day we set out 
and alighted at a house, the cleanest and most orderly I 
had seen in any part of the empire. The owner of it was a 
criminal who, in Eussia, had been both robber and mur- 
derer. His wife presently set before us some brunitska 
berries and white bread. The man had not only become 
the most orderly possible, but was particularly noted for 
the good he does." 

" We reached the Zavod about 7 o'clock in the morning. 
The Commander, a German about fifty years of age, was 
an acquaintance and fellow-student of Dr. Solander. He 
had taken great pains in the chemical department, and 
they were not fruitless. A species of mineral which the 



others had been throwing away, not knowing its properties, 
or suspecting its value, he discovered to be a rich ore of 
mercury. Narishkin was at that time Commander, and in 
the name of the Empress gratified him with a reward of 
1500 roubles for his discovery. He employed the sum in 
giving a kind of affluence to his menage until the end of 
Narishkin's command, when the 1500 roubles were re- 
quired back from him, on the pretence of Narishkin's 
having lavished the Crown money. The greatest part of 
this money had been employed, and much of it irrevocably 
spent ; therefore half his salary was kept back till this last 
year, when the whole of the money had been repaid. 
This same ingenious and industrious man discovered that 
another mineral, which had withstood the experiments and 
researches of other chemists, was a rich ore of zinc. For 
this he had not even been thanked. He seemed to hint 
that he knew of tin ore in the neighbourhood, but was 
not disposed to give himself much trouble in researches, 
having so much reason to regret those he had pursued. 
He gave me some ore of mercury and several other rare 
specimens. He has an excellent cabinet of Japanese as 
well as Eussian minerals. He had also, as well as several 
others, received promotion in rank from Narishkin, but 
was reduced as well as all the rest. Whatever crimes that 
man (Narishkin) had been guilty of, certainly he had in 
many cases attended to the reward of merit." 

Mr. Bentham, instead of being stopped at the gate of 
the suburbs of Kiachta, was met by a soldier, who desired 
the driver to follow him, "and then conducted us to 
quarters prepared for me. They were at a merchant's, the 
best house in the town. As soon as dressed, sent for 
sledges and drove to the Director's. There was something 
particularly amiable in the appearance of this gentleman, 
his lady and family, which consisted of eight children, 
from sixteen years of age downwards. I knew that I could 
have admittance to Chinese merchants; but as to the Chinese 


Commander, it seemed doubtful as to whether I should 
have permission to visit him. After refusing pressing in- 
vitation to stay supper, went out to call on the Com- 
mandant. He also doubted whether the Sergetsky would 
permit me to visit him. At my return to my quarters, 
found the supper I would not eat at the Director's sent 
here in readiness for me." 

" The next day, having dressed by 9 o'clock, set out, 
intending to call on the Director, but met him on his way 
to my quarters." 

" A note came from the Commandant, saying that the 
Sergetsky much wished to have the honour of my visit. 
This apparent change in his disposition seemed surprising. 
Immediately after dinner, Matrei Ivanovitch and I drove 
to Kiachta, and alighted at the Lieutenant's, who is the 
Commander there. The winter road is on the river 
Kiachta, and is not more than three versts. After settling 
the ceremony to be observed, sent to let the Sergetsky 
know that we were coming. Imagining that more parade 
would be expected if we went in sledges, than on foot, 
I proposed that we should walk, the distance not being 
more than half a verst." 

The notes of this first interview appear to have been lost ; 
the next remaining note runs thus : — " As I wished to see 
the Chinese manner of eating, we went by 11 o'clock to 
one of the merchants. He had dined, but understanding 
the purpose of my visit, he prepared a second dinner. This 
was shortly done, as it consisted of cold dishes, with one 
exception. This was hashed meat, enclosed in coverings of 
paste, and boiled — a kind of dumplings, not too large to be 
taken into the mouth at once. They were served in basins, 
about a dozen in each of them, one of which was presented 
to each of the company. Four of us sat crossed-legged to 
the table. Each person was provided with a saucer, in 
which was a piece of sugar-candy, and some thick, black, 
but not ill-tasted vinegar, poured upon it. This served as 

E 2 


sauce, into which the dumplings were to be dipped when 
broken in halves, thus to be made two mouthfuls of. Two 
or three of the other dishes were filled with hashed meat, 
made into small lumps of different figures. Salt fish 
formed another dish ; a kind of isinglass another. There 
were fried batter cakes covered with sugar, but all in very 
small pieces. Different pickles, in still smaller saucers, 
were placed between the other dishes. The whole had the 
appearance of what children in their piny call making a 
feast, when all is in miniature, and seems more to look at 
than to eat. 

" When returned to the Eussian merchant's, came a mes- 
sage from the Commander, to let me know the Sergetsky 
was at his house, and to ask if I would take that oppor- 
tunity of seeing him again. I went immediately.. The 
Commander left the Sergetsky to come out to the steps to 
meet me, and as I came into the room the Sergetsky left 
his sofa to meet me. We shook hands in the Chinese 
manner with both hands. He had been seated on the 
sofa, to which a table had been put, the Commander on 
a chair by the side, according to the Russian custom. The 
suite were standing. Whether by accident or design I was 
placed on the sofa with the Sergetsky, but next to the 
Commander ; so that I was between them. The tea and 
three glasses of punch, which were successively served, the 
Commander handed to me first. The Sergetsky seemed 
the first time piqued at this, and declined accepting. The 
Commander, however, in the pressing manner of the Rus- 
sians, took the glass and put it down to him on the table. 
In conversation, the Sergetsky asked my age ; I did the 
like by him. Upon his answering forty-four, I observed 
that by his looks I should have imagined him to be much 
younger. He replied that possibly that appearance had 
been in consequence of the healthiness of the part of the 
country he had long lived in — Canton. This not a little 
surprised me, as he appeared to be so very ignorant of Euro- 


pean concerns, notwithstanding the trade that is carried on 
with England at that place. To assure myself of his 
veracity I inquired if he corresponded with friends there, 
and if he did, would he favour me so far as to convey a 
letter from me to my countrymen, to which he readily 
assented ; and after some inquiries as to my object in 
writing, it was settled that my letter should be forwarded, 
if closed with a flying seal." 

" When we had drunk the stated number of glasses of 
punch, he took his leave, got into his two-wheeled cart 
drawn by one horse, two men leading it, and set off: his 
attendants were some of them on horseback, others on 
foot : his saddle-horse was led after the carriage." 

66 Kiachta, the general mart for all the commerce carried 
on by the Russians with China, is, properly speaking, two 
separate towns — one of them, Kiachta, inhabited by Rus- 
sians — the other, Naimatchin, by Chinese. Naimatchin 
has three gates towards Kiachta, three towards China, and 
one gate on each side of the town. There is not any theatre 
at Naimatchin. On the site of a former one a new temple 
has been built : the merchants erected it in thanksgiving 
for the prosperity of their commerce. The principal figure 
in this temple is a goddess with a golden face, and other- 
wise richly mounted ; on her right hand a smaller figure, 
its hands in a praying position ; on the other side, a girl 
holding what they said was a cloth, and they added that 
both figures were servants. The pedestal on which the 
principal figure's feet rest, as she sits, is supported by two 
figures. Behind the goddess, and fronting the opposite 
way, is a rather smaller figure, which is said to be her son : 
he has a looking-glass at his breast, holds his hands in a 
praying position, his knees a little bent, and across them a 
piece of fanza. This, they say, is not according to their 
religion, but was permitted at the request of a Mogul, the 
commander of the limits." 

" Painted on the walls on each side are nine figures, 

E 3 


very much resembling Christian saints: they have all glories 
round their heads ; some hold beads, shorter indeed than 
the Catholic rosary, and two books. Above these are some 
little figures, one of them a man on his knees receiving 
punishment from a whip. A judge sits to see the exe- 
cution of the sentence. Near this group is a woman, a 
sister of their gods. Some of the saints on one side were 
hideously ugly, meagre, and attenuated ; on the other side 
a frightfully fat saint ; but all of them had glories." 

" All the gods look towards their country, excepting the 
goddess in the new temple, who looks towards the great 
pagoda, to which it is near and opposite. The principal 
god in the great temple has eight or ten dresses : the mer- 
chants, when he assists them, make vows to give him a 
new coat, and as no one is ever taken off, the new dress is 
put over the old ones. War instruments are kept on each 
side the platform leading to the pagoda from the portico." 

" For fortune-telling there is a vessel about the size of 
a quart mug full of fortune-telling pieces that have letters 
on them : any person desirous of learning his future fate 
takes one of these pieces and searches for a corresponding 
figure or letter in a book which lies by, and thus ascer- 
tains his future. This may be done at any time, but is 
chiefly performed either on the new year's day or on the 
man's own happy day. The fortune-seeker puts money 
through holes in the altar into a sealed drawer. By per- 
mission of the Sergetsky, this drawer is opened by twelve 
men chosen for the management of the affairs of the 

" The god of the temple in the G-obirsky desert (which 
is between this and the great wall) died about five years 
ago. The great lama was immediately sent to, inquiring 
whither the soul had passed. The commissioners were 
informed that it had entered the son of the Mogul who was 
commander of the lines. This is a boy, at that time not 
three years old. He was taken immediately to the temple 


to be taught his duty. It is sometimes asked, why 
teach a god ? The reply is, that the soul, being god, 
has no need of instruction; but that the body must be 
instructed. The boy's father must no longer call him son, 
but worship the child instead of receiving filial duty from 

" In the traffic between the Eussians and the Chinese, 
the China merchant always comes to the Russian, but only 
to his shop or dwelling-house, not to the storehouse. The 
Chinaman asks the Russian if he has such and such mer- 
chandise ; if so, and if the meeting be at the house, the 
Russian either accompanies the customer to his shop, or 
sends some one thither with him to see the goods. The 
Chinese merchant returns to the house, and over a cup of 
tea the price of the goods is settled in roubles : next has to 
be determined what kind of Chinese merchandise is to be 
received to that amount, and at what price. On this 
valuation of Chinese articles, not only species is inquired 
into, but also from whence they came, where fabricated, 
and every other circumstance influencing value. These 
preliminaries arranged, the Russian accompanies the Chi- 
nese home, inspects the goods, and, if according to agree- 
ment, brings them home with him." 

" The Chinese do not make use of sledges, but transport 
their merchandise either on the backs of camels or in two- 
wheeled carts drawn by oxen. The wheels of these carts 
do not turn on the axle, but are fitted on to it so that the 
whole turns together." 

" There is no interpreter provided by the Russian 
Crown, nor is there any allowance for such an office. That 
government allows only the insignificant sum of twenty 
roubles a year for the payment of spies and other political 
expenses ; nor is there anything allotted for shows or enter- 
tainments, excepting 30 vedros a year of common Russ 
brandy. This allowance is made to the major who com- 
mands the borders of China ; but as he does not himself 

E 4 


receive the Chinese, he gives six vedros to each of the 
officers who reside at Kiachta. 

"The Sergetsky's duty is confined to the police of 
Naimatchin, and to the commerce between Russia and 
China. All matters that have reference to the frontiers 
are in the department of a Mogul styled Commander of the 
Frontiers. He is the superior in rank everywhere but at 

"A few anecdotes were obtained indicative of the policy 
and manners of the two nations in their intercourse with 
each other ; amongst them a remarkable one relative to 
an endeavour on the part of the Russian Commandant 
of the Frontier to reconcile Russian law with the treaty 
existing between that country and China. According to 
the terms of that treaty, in the case of a man of the one 
nation passing its boundaries and committing robbery or 
murder, the punishment should be death ; yet, according 
to the then existing Russian law, capital punishment was 
abolished. It happened at two different periods, the one 
three, the other four years ago, that seven Chinese who 
had been guilty of these crimes were taken, tried by the 
Chinese, and condemned. Thereupon, the Russian major, 
fearing that should any Russians be guilty of the same 
offence the Chinese would require that they should suffer 
death, gave orders that the punishment of the condemned 
Chinese should not be required, or at all events that no 
Russian should witness it. The Chinese, however, to 
show the exactitude with which they fulfilled the treaty, 
endeavoured to engage Russians to be present at the 
execution ; but not being able to effect this, the Chinese 
commander invited the Russian in command to visit him 
on the day appointed for the execution. The Russian 
accepted, but on perceiving the object of the invitation, 
feigned sudden illness, and endeavoured to get home ; but 
the Chinese officer, running after him, retained him as it 
were by force to see the execution." 



Condition and Treatment of Exiles in Siberia — He descends the Angora 
from Irkutsk — Letter to his Brother Jeremy Bentham — Fanaticism of 
Russian Peasants — Appeal on the Murder of a Tonguse — Slave Trade 
of the Kirgees — Fertility of Siberia — He visits Nijni Novgorod — 
Returns to St. Petersburg, and presents a Report to the Empress — 
Declines Lord Shelburne's Offer of a Commissionership of the Navy — 
Sir James Harris leaves Bentham as Charge d' Affaires at St. Peters- 
burg — He is appointed a " Conseiller de la Cour," and entrusted with 
the Works of the Fontanha Caual — Engagement with the Niece of 
Prince Galitzm — Letter of Sir James Harris — The Engagement finally 
broken off — He is appointed Lieutenant-Colonel in the Russian Army, 
with the Command of the Southern part of the Country. 

On Bentham's return from Kiachta, he interested himself 
warmly in the fate of culprits exiled to Siberia. He 
observed: "I have had an advantage which could be 
obtained at this period only. I have had opportunities 
of witnessing the injustice which was habitual under the 
former mode of government, and at the same time the 
impossibility of committing it under the new. I have 
been in districts at the time when the old form still re- 
mained in sufficient force to judge of its effects, and I have 
witnessed the advantages of the new form in places where 
it has been introduced. I have seen proofs of the very 
mistaken notions that are entertained of the treatment to 
which exiles are subjected in Siberia. I passed through 
several villages in my way from Kiachta to Barnaval, 
which were inhabited entirely by exiles from different parts 
of Russia, and who had received the knout. There were 
no guards, nor any other people within the distance of 


perhaps a hundred versts. These exiles cultivate their 
land, and enrich themselves in a manner they never would 
have done in Kussia. The idea of fear never entered my 
head when amongst them. On setting out from St. Peters- 
burg I had thought it necessary to provide pistols and 
other arms, but I had never used, seen, or even inquired 
about them since I entered Siberia. Some of the men 
employed in the mines do, it is true, occasionally run 
away, and have in that case no other means of subsistence 
but that of pilfering in the villages they pass through in 
the course they take for escape ; but as this happens in 
summer only, they are generally taken before winter sets 
in. The punishment for such escape was formerly severe, 
and sure to be inflicted : this made them resolute in self- 
defence, and consequently blood was frequently shed on 
both sides ; but of late years, by making the punishment 
for simple desertion light, though still heavy in the case of 
violence committed, these runagates almost always return 
of themselves in the course of a few days." 

" The number of working days in the year is 270, 
but those who labour at the furnaces are allowed every 
third week as holiday. For some descriptions of work 
in which free people are employed, the pay given for 
it amounts only to twenty, eighteen, and even so little as 
fifteen roubles a year." 

In a letter to his brother, Bentham says : " I am now 
descending the Angora from Irkutsk to Jeneseisk in a bark 
in which merchants are transporting their goods from 
Kiachta to different parts of Russia. You never in your 
days beheld such a romantic scene as I have at present 
before my eyes : mountainous rocks descending into a broad 
and rapid river, and forming in it little islands, exhi- 
biting to the imagination the ruins of castles and towns 
of various figures. Farther on delightful meadow ground, 
with clumps of birch trees, bounded by a thick, deep 
green wood. A straggling village, with a white church, 


that has a gilded cross on it ; not a cloud to be seen ; 
and to complete the whole, a peasant on the shore, while 
his cattle are drinking at the river, sits on a willow 
stump and entertains us as we pass with a charming lively 
pastoral air on a Scotch bagpipe. I regret the swiftness 
with which we glide along out of hearing of these pastoral 

To his Brothei" Jeremy Bentham. 

" Tobolsk, August 28th, 1782, O.S. 
"At Omsk fortress, on the frontiers of the empire, towards 
the Kirgisian territories, I learnt, by the Russian Gazette, of 
Rodney's success in the West Indies. The post, arrived to-day, 
brings the disagreeable news of the critical situation of Lord 
Howe, who, with only twenty-two sail of the hue, seems liable 
to be exposed to and even determined to engage the fleet of the 
enemy, amounting to forty sail. The same papers give some 
little hope that our fleet may be reinforced to thirty-five sail ; 
if so (as according to my calculation 35 + Lord Howe's abilities 
= 40), we shall be a match for them. Such very interesting 
public news, together with the circumstance of my not having 
received a single letter from England of a date later than 
October last, makes me anxious to an extreme degree to reach 
Petersburg, and almost incapable of supporting the least delay 
in my journey. The opening the new mode of jurisdiction in 
this government takes place here the day after to-morrow, and 
though this is what I wished much to be present at, and had pro- 
mised to stay for, yet upon the receipt of this last news I lost all 
patience. I went directly to the Governor-General for the purpose 
of taking leave. Nothing, however, would he hear about taking 
leave ; vowed he would not let me have post horses till the day 
after to-morrow, and in short Avill not permit me to set off before 
that time. In the mean time 'tis true I shall rest myself a little, 
which upon the whole may not be time lost. From Barnaval here 
I have not slept but in the carriage, and as the roads are bad at this 
time of year my sleep could not be very sound. From hence to 
Petersburg I shall not be disposed to give a single hour to rest. 
This letter goes by courier who sets off directly, yet I hope to be 


at Petersburg a few days after him, notwithstanding the prefer- 
ence on the road with which couriers are served. 

" How vexatious it is that I cannot know a syllable of what you 
are about now ; at such a time as this you must certainly be other- 
wise employed than in pursuance of your former works. The re- 
inforcements for Lord Howe not being ready makes me, as it 
were, ready to jump out of my skin. Were I in authority I 
should, I believe, never sleep but in my way from one dockyard 
to another ; Messieurs the commissioners of the navy and dock- 
yard officers should have no more rest than I have now on my 
journey; the fear of such a whip before their eyes as one of my 
grenadiers puts life into when my postilions are lazy, would make 
these gentlemen a little more alert — a little Russian discipline 
would work wonderful changes in such lukewarm dispositions. 
The master shipwright himself, if he had nothing better to do, 
should blister his hands in setting an example to the workmen. 
Not one bit of ornament, or of accommodation for an officer should 
occasion a moment's delay. Is it possible that carved work and 
mouldings, planings and polishings, should, at such a time as this,, 
make part of the employment of dockyard workmen, whose 
labour is of so great moment ? Is an hour in the day, that is 
half a day in the week, still spent in the cutting up and secreting 
of chips ? Is it by such lying reports as are sent up that the 
Lords of the Admiralty as well as the Navy Board, and whomso- 
ever else it may concern, that the progress of works in the dock 
yards is still judged of? They would get better information from 
the newspapers." 

It will subsequently be seen that at a much later 
period, when Mr. Bentham engaged himself in the British 
service as Inspector-Greneral of Naval Works, he did effect 
the cessation of many abuses, that of chips amongst others ; 
but that instead of the application of the whip as thus play- 
fully threatened, all of his official communications exhibited 
that it was not men but the system of management that 
was at fault, and that it was the imperfection of accounts 
that gave rise to and fostered lying reports. 

Notes of the ceremony on introducing the new jurispru- 


dence have not been found, but it appears that he collected 
a considerable mass of information as to facts illustrating 
the eccentricities no less than the general habits and 
opinions of the people. As an instance of the excesses to 
which mistaken religious enthusiasm sometimes leads, he 
noted particulars that had actually occurred about the 
month of May of this year, 1782 : " A common servant in 
the neighbourhood of Tobolsk, a man of a sect dissenting; 
from the established religion, happened, in reading the 
Holy Bible, to see that the end of the world was foretold to 
be near at hand. Struck with the importance of this pro- 
phecy, and considering it in some measure as a discovery 
of his own, and himself as it were the author, he became 
heated with a sort of sacred fire, and, conceiving that the 
discovery reflected importance on himself, he set about 
making his fanatic brethren proselytes to his opinions, and 
soon found many to embrace them. Preparations for this 
great event was now the business to which all else must 
give way. The Eucharist was administered, and the most 
severe fastings imposed. When the imagination of these 
visionaries was worked up to a certain height their frenzy 
rendered them impatient for the coming of the happy day, 
for which they were so preparing; three of them were 
already stoned to death, a woman and two children ; the 
rest, to the number of fifty, assembled at a lake, fathers, 
mothers, and children, and plunged themselves into it. 
The enthusiast, after plunging a child of his own, on its 
struggling to get out, rendered ineffectual its endeavours 
to save itself, and held it under water." 

" This man, however, enjoyed too great satisfaction in 
the sensation of his own importance to thus put an end to 
his own life, and so prevent him from making more prose- 
lytes; but the Government getting notice of his proceedings 
secured him, and he is now in chains awaiting his trial." 

An extraordinary case of appeal to the Grovernor- 
Greneral had been made in the case of a Tonguse who had 


been killed in pity to his suffering state : " This man had 
lost his senses, and though in this condition, so long as he 
did no harm, he was allowed to follow his whimsies, and 
was supplied with necessaries by the community. At 
length, however, his madness took a mischievous turn, 
so as no longer to be bearable by his companions. They 
assembled together, therefore, to consult as to what should 
be done with him : the general decision was that, as he had 
become unhappy in himself and burthensome to others, he 
should be killed ! This judgment was accordingly carried 
into execution. The Tonguse, though a people living 
solely by hunting, and in a part of Asia 3000 versts 
northward of this place, are tributary to the crown of 
Russia, and are obliged to report deaths to the nearest 
seat of Government. The family of this man reported how 
they had put him to death themselves, and for what reasons. 
The tribunal to which the report came, knowing that 
according to the Russian law these people would be prose- 
cuted as murderers, appealed to the Governor-General for 
directions as to how they were to proceed in this extra- 
ordinary case. The Governor- General's answer was that 
'as their motive had been compassion for the unhappy 
being, attention must be paid to their peculiar way 
of thinking, and therefore that in this case the letter 
of the law must be waived ! ' Many are the occasions on 
which a Governor-General in this land of various tribes is 
called upon to exercise his judgment and his humanity in 
the fulfilment of the difficult charge imposed upon him, 
and for the due execution of which he is individually 
responsible to his sovereign." 

" One source of increase to the population of Siberia 
arises from the depredations of the Kirgees : they seize 
people of every description who foil into their hands, con- 
sider their captives as lawful' property, and when they have 
no occasion for their services, change them away like other 
merchandise with Russian merchants ; merchants nut being 


noble, cannot generally possess slaves, but to encourage 
this mode of acquiring subjects, the empress accords to 
merchants the privilege of purchasing and possessing as 
slaves people that they buy from the Kirgees. The heir 
of a merchant cannot inherit serfs, consequently at the 
death of the purchaser his slaves become free, and thus a 
number of additional subjects are obtained every year. 
These being the only kind of slaves a merchant can 
possess, competition enhances the price of the commodity ; 
a boy of ten years old will sell even up to 200 roubles. 
General Kashkin has a boy of seven, and a girl of four, 
which a merchant let him have at prime cost, 110 roubles 
for the boy, 50 for the girl. Sometimes the Kirgees, 
tempted by merchandise of which they are in want, will 
give their own children in exchange for it." 

" In the course of travels over such an extent of country, 
so circumstanced as is Russian Siberia, any unprejudiced 
foreigner would of course perceive many instances where 
the management of it might be amended. Thus the policy 
seems doubtful of entrusting the eastern confines of it to 
the protection of the Bratski, a people so little attached to 
Russia, or to any other country. It would seem that, were 
Government better acquainted than they are with details 
as to the habits of the different people in Siberia, with 
the capabilities of the country, with its actual cultivation 
and its commerce, a great increase of individual comfort to 
the inhabitants might result, at the same time that the 
revenues of the crown might be greatly augmented. It 
occurred to me that such information might be afforded in 
the most simple manner by means of charts and tabular 
printed forms. A chart, for instance, exhibiting the state 
of cultivation, and the population of the different provinces 
of the Russian empire, at the period of the close of the 
reign of Peter the Great ; another at that of Elizabeth ; 
and so at the conclusion of successive reigns down to the 
latest period. Were such charts to accompany the history 


of the empire, they would give a much more striking and 
exact account of what improvements had taken place in 
these respects under each reign than can be obtained by 

" It is in this country that human nature may be seen 
in its greatest varieties, and where the most ample field for 
its study is afforded. There is an assemblage of tribes of 
various religions, several of which are intolerant in their 
belief; yet all these people are politically united under 
one Government, of which they all agree to be peaceable 

" Siberia has been thought capable of producing only a 
small pittance of corn, and that by infinite labour ; on the 
contrary, the peasants, who, in this country, are far more 
indolent than in other parts of the Kussian empire, without 
ever dreaming of bestowing manure on their ground, live 
for the most part in abundance. Were a sea communication 
formed from the mouths of the Siberian rivers, exportation 
of corn would be carried to a great extent. One reason 
why Russians have so long remained ignorant of the state of 
Siberia, may be that officers sent to it have been interested 
in representing it as unfruitful, in order to account for the 
high prices they gave it to be understood must be paid for 
necessaries. Having come to the country before the whole 
of it was under the new jurisdiction, I myself have known 

1000/. English to have been sent to the meeting at  

where a person was sent to examine into abuses. This sum 
was as a conditional fee upon his resolving to see all as it 
should be. In the former mode it is impossible but that 
means the most inhuman conceivable should sometimes 
have been employed for the extortion of money by those 
in power ; but such practices are now effectually at an end. 
True, a degree of favour and countenance from those in 
power may now, in fault of other recommendations, be to 
be gained by small presents. And where is it not ? " 

On the 3rd September he arrived at Catherinaburg, 


visiting in his way manufactories as well as mines, pursu- 
ing his route towards St. Petersburg by Kazan to Nijni 
Novgorod, where he remained ten days. His halt at 
Ivan Volesta was at the same house where Peter the 
Great had dined. The monarch had come into it as a 
boor, sat down and eat with boors, and it was not till after 
dinner, when his people came in, that those in the house 
knew him to be their sovereign. He had worked here 
himself as a carpenter. " I had observed the good workman- 
ship of the vessels built here, as well as their being of the 
Dutch fashion : certainly it was Peter who had given them 
this model, and had engaged them farther to give much 
attention to the workmanship. At the pressing solicitation 
of the people here, I ate some bread and salt with them." 
In a letter to his brother, never completed, written at 
Nijni Novgorod, he says, — "I have been here now 'tis true 
a week, but it is with the utmost difficulty I have been 
able to take time to write, and more than once have been 
nearly taking resolution to quit the place in despair of 
writing to you in it. Various have been the obstructions ; 
for the most part over-pressing invitations of people bring- 
ing me out in the morning to see one thing or another. 
After dinner one day, a ball, another, a masquerade, and as 
the Governor gives these entertainments on my account, 
it was impossible not to stay them out. This made two 
late mornings. All the world paid me their visits, three 
or four of them at least I could not but return. Another 
plague is that melons and water melons are in great abun- 
dance, and finding that I was fond of them, I am crammed 
with them morning, noon, and night : five times I ate of 
them yesterday. Worst of all is that I am lodged at the 
house of a prattling, troublesome, civil, old woman, who 
has a pretty, good-natured daughter, who, unluckily for me, 
takes it into her head, notwithstanding all I say to the con- 
trary, that it must be irksome for me to sit at home 
by myself, and thrusts herself and a little officer upon me." 



By way of Novgorod and Moscow he returned to St. 
Petersburg, where he arrived on the 9th October, 1782. 

From the above it appears that he had reached Kiachta 
as early as February 1782, the utmost extent of his travels 
at this time, Kiachta being the frontier town in Siberia, 
where all the Chinese commerce with Eussia is transacted. 
It may here be mentioned that the Chinese authorities 
allowed him to enter their territory, received him and 
communicated with him amicably, and with a good deal of 
liberality of sentiment and manner. They also made him 
many small presents of teas and silks, which he afterwards 
sent to his father and stepmother in England. Altogether 
there was not evinced at Kiachta that jealousy of other 
nations which was observed by the Chinese in other fron- 
tiers of their dominions. 

During this excursion he visited nearly the whole of the 
mines in Siberia that he had not already explored, collect- 
ing specimens, with a view to their economical as well as 
geological importance. Amongst the copper ores, especially, 
were several varieties previously unknown, with others of 
great value, such as transparent crystals of copper, ma- 
lachites, and powerful natural magnets. Nor was he 
negligent of other branches of natural history. He sent a 
collection of seeds to Sir Joseph Banks, amongst which 
were several species that were new. From a lake in the 
neighbourhood of Irkutsk, he sent specimens of the alkali 
which it deposits, and which promised to be of value as an 
article of commerce. 

Prince Potemkin had great estates in the south of 
Eussia, and many concerns connected with traffic, chiefly 
about the Black Sea. He farmed the duties on many 
articles, built ships for the Crown, supplied the army and 
the Crown with almost all necessaries required in that part 
of the empire ; he had manufactories of various kinds, and 
was then clearing the waterfalls of the Dnieper at his oayii 
expense. The Prince expressed an ardent wish, before Mr. 


Bentham set out on his Siberian excursion, that he would 
render assistance in the improvement of those concerns. 
Bentham declined any such engagement, as also others 
that had been pressed upon him by the Demidoffs and the 
Strogonoffs, " because," as he wrote to his brother, " such 
an employment in this country would not be sufficient for 
me — a man who is not in service under the Crown, however 
rich he may be, is but little respected." He had, however, 
promised that, on his return towards St. Petersburg, he 
would visit the Prince's estates, and did so in a manner 
which now enabled him to be of use when consulted by His 
Highness respecting those possessions, as also concerning 
marine matters in the Black Sea. 

On Mr. Bentham's return to St. Petersburg, Prince 
Potemkin undertook to present a paper prepared for the 
Empress, and contrary to his usual well-known dilatori- 
ness actually gave it to Her Majesty the day after he had 
received it. In this paper he stated that his " long stay in 
the Grovernment of Perme, had afforded opportunity of 
observing such defects of the system of operations in use 
there, especially in the mines and salt works, that he could 
no longer suffer himself to regard them with the eye of 
simple curiosity ; that it was impossible for him to perceive 
imperfections in matters of such importance, without em- 
ploying his thoughts in search of the means of remedying 
them ; that the table annexed exhibited the methods 
which appeared to him the best adapted to the operations 
carried on, and that those suggestions were in part the re- 
sult of his researches, some of them inventions of his own, 
some of them belonging to the department of mechanics, 
others to that of chemistry." The Empress approved of this 
paper, and desired the Prince to obtain further details of 
the proposed improvements. 

Princess Dashkoff, also in January 1783, presented to 
the Empress a chart which he had invented ; it was con- 
trived to exhibit, at one view, the absolute and compara- 

F 2 


live state of the population of the whole, or of any part 
of the empire. te A little thing," he says on mentioning 
it, " too simple to have much merit." The Empress, 
however, ordered a chart of one of her provinces to be 
made on that plan. 

The details of Mr. Bentham's proposed improvements 
in the mines were speedily delivered to the Prince, who 
with his habitual dilatoriness for some time neglected to 
present them to Her Majesty, although she had thrice 
asked for them. This delay prevented Mr. Bentham 
from obtaining a private audience till the month of 
March. Her Majesty then expressed herself as obliged 
by his communications, and permitted him for the future 
to state through the Princess DashkofY whatever ideas of 
improvement he might entertain in regard to those parts 
of the empire with which he was acquainted. This was 
peculiarly agreeable on account of the intimacy and 
friendship already existing between him and the Princess, 
as also with her son Prince Dashkoff. 

Lord Shelburne having become a member of the Ad- 
ministration in England, now offered Mr. Bentham a com- 
missionership of the navy. But his prospects in Kussia 
were of a nature which induced him to decline the ap- 
pointment ; although in a letter to his father giving the 
reasons which influenced him, he says : " A strong attach- 
ment to my country in general, a kind of patriotism — 
arising from a comparison between that and every other 
country I have seen — a longing desire to return to those so 
entirely separated from me, and apart from whom I could 
never long be happy — would not permit me to engage in 
any plan here without very striking advantages." 

His brother at this time had intimated his intention 
of sending to St. Petersburg certain projects in law 
reform, from which Samuel dissuaded him on the ground 
that the heads of the law departments would think it a 
shame for them with their experience to be beholden to a 


foreigner for improvements in the details in their business. 
" Different, however," said he, " was the conduct of Count 
OrlofT when the Empress gave him public thanks for his 
services in destroying the Turkish fleet. ' I,' says the 
Count, taking our countryman by the hand, 'had the 
sincerest desire possible to serve your Majesty and my 
country, but it is to Admiral Grreig's advice and abilities 
your Majesty is indebted.' Had I been present at such 
a speech my sensibility to the generous confession of the 
Count would even have scarcely let me perceive the merit 
of the Admiral, to which the words of the Count were 
intended entirely to direct attention. This expression 
which, from the character of the Count, seems to have 
come from his heart, could not certainly, from a man in 
his circumstances, but gain the hearts of his hearers. 
But enough of this digression, and of sermonising from 
your younger brother." 

A variety of plans were in agitation for fixing him in 
the Russian service, when, on the 30th May, after a dinner 
to which Bentham had been particularly invited, Sir James 
Harris took him aside, and proposed that he should take 
charge of the diplomatic business from the time of his (Sir 
James's) departure till the arrival of the new Ambassador, — 
in short, that Mr. Bentham should become Charge d' Affaires. 
Sir James had the complaisance to put acceptance on the 
footing of an obligation to himself, saying that thereby he 
should be enabled to leave Petersburg earlier than he 
otherwise could do. Such an honourable post was not to 
be refused, and Sir James wrote the same day to Mr. Fox, 
acquainting him with the appointment. 

In June Mr. Bentham offered, by letter, to inspect the 
introduction of the improvements which he had suggested. 
Her Majesty on reading it immediately expressed, in an- 
swer, her desire to engage him in her service, and gave 
him liberty to choose the place of his intended operations, 
intimating at the same time that he should himself pro- 

F 3 


pose the terms and manner of engagement. The im- 
portance of the mines in Siberia led his wishes to that 
country, but this was over-ruled by the preference which 
the Empress entertained for the improvement of those 
at Olmutz. Still the appointment seemed to linger, and 
he found that this delay was occasioned by his having ac- 
cepted the appointment of Charge d'Affaires ; on learning, 
therefore, that Sir James's successor was shortly to arrive, 
Mr. Bentham gave up the post. 

It happened, however, that circumstances bordering on 
romance, with which the Empress was acquainted, deter- 
mined her to fix Mr. Bentham for a time at St. Peters- 
burg, and appointed him a " Conseiller de la Cour," with 
the civil rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. The works of the 
Fontanha Canal were given him in charge. In the course 
of their execution he invented a new pile-driving machine, 
such as would put an end to the habitual skulking of the 
labourers, and by which at the same time the whole weight 
of the men would act beneficially instead of only em- 
ploying their muscular force. The machine was a kind of 
ladder which yielded downwards on every step that the 
men took, on the same principle as that of the walking 
wheel ; but the kind of ladder which he devised was much 
less cumbersome than the wheel, and therefore more easily 
moved from place to place as the work of piling advanced. 

During the summer he wrote either to his father or 
to his brother many particulars which he had not had 
leisure to note during his travels, among others his ob- 
servations respecting the descent of bodies floating down 
a river with the stream, the larger body always arriving 
at its destination sooner than the smaller one, when both 
started on their descent at the same time. A practical use 
was habitually made of this fact by the managers of the 
works at Nijni Taghil, who always despatched their small 
boats some time before the large ones, in order that all 
might simultaneously arrive at Tobolsk. Mr. Bentham 


gave the rationale of this; but the chief subject of his 
letters at this time was that which caused the indecision 
manifested in the transactions of this year. A matrimonial 
alliance was in agitation with a niece of the Grand 
Chamberlain, Prince Gralitzin, at whose house he made 
acquaintance with the young lady, and where he met her 
twice a week. The match was universally favoured by 
the society of St Petersburg, the lady's mother only being 
averse to it. The Empress herself took part in the affair, 
even to the extent of recommending a private marriage. 
The mother, however, her daughter being a rich heiress 
and regarded as the principal person of the family, could 
not consent to bestow her on a foreigner, though she 
fully admitted that there could be no personal objection, 
so that after months of anxiety the match was broken off. 
The following letter from Sir James Harris to Mr. Bent- 
ham's father bears flattering testimony to the young man's 
honourable conduct in this romance : — 

" Petersburg, May 21st, 1783. 
" Sir, — I have had too much pleasure in your son's company, 
ind have too much good to say of him, to make any apology ne- 
cessary for addressing myself abruptly to his father, when I have 
no other motive for so doing than to bear testimony that the whole 
of hs conduct here has been such as does him the highest honour 
and 'redit, and such as must give pleasure to those who, like 
yourslf ? are connected with him by consanguinity, or like me 
by reg r d and esteem. 

1 I k«ow he has lately informed you of the probability of his 
entering' n to a very desirable and lucrative matrimonial alliance 
here — h.i\ it taken place it would have been so ; and had your 
son enrpload the arts of seduction rather than have acted a fair 
and uprigh Dar t 5 it probably might have succeeded — but he very 
laudably pr erred the better method, and though the match has 
failed, he ha re ceived universal approbation for his behaviour, 
and even the s teem of those who rejected his connection. He 
has now turnt hi s thoughts another way, and is, I hope, likely to 
enter into a >y advantageous agreement with the Strogonoff 

V 4 


family, for the working of their mines in Siberia, for which, as 
they are men of strictest honour and integrity, he is likely to 
derive very considerable emolument. In whatever undertaking he 
engages, he will, I am sure, be no discredit to his country, and you 
need never be apprehensive of his doing wrong. Common justice 
alone would induce me to say thus much, and as I am sure it will 
give you pleasure to hear it, I end as I began, without any apology. 
" I am, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant, 

"James Harris." 

From this time he was naturally led to wish for em- 
ployment away from St. Petersburg, and the Empress on 
her part was desirous of engaging him in improvements 
relative to the mines of the Crown. He was in high favour 
with most of the persons who had influence at Court. In 
a letter from Csarskoe Zelo, 27th July, 1783, he says, " I 
dined with General Landskoy, as I had done before, when 
I came here, and his civilities and attentions to me 
seem still to increase ; every mark of attention he showed 
me while I was looked upon as a stranger I put all to 
that account ; but the manner he treats me now that I 
am entering the service is really flattering. What I learn 
by it is that I enjoy the Empress's good opinion." Th^ 
place General Landskoy held in her Majesty's good graces 
is well known. In continuation, Mr. Bentham adds' — 
" Mme. Sherbinin who, you will please to remember he-ice- 
forward, is Princess DashkofY 's daughter, is translatiig? or 
rather has been attempting to translate, into Englisrsome 
Essays on the history of this country, which are nc/ pub- 
lishing, little by little, in a kind of monthly irigazine 
printed at the Academy in Russian language. Tese said 
essays, you are to know, are written by the Emress her- 
self, and she still from time to time works har<at it, and 
means to bring it down to the reign of th Empress 
Elizabeth. I have the correcting, or somethes it might 
be called re-translating, this ; which latter eiployment I 
prefer, as it improves me in the Russian lan< ia ge.' 


Notw?^ 711 ls Jling the supposed termination of the affair 
of which Sir James Harris had spoken, the lady's constancy 
occasioned its breaking out anew, so that Mr. Bentham 
remained in a state of anxiety during the rest of the 
year; but in January 1784 he acquainted his father that 
there was a final end to all further hopes or fears upon 
the subject. His conduct in the affair was approved of 
to the last, but he says : " One consequence, however, is 
that my plans in this neighbourhood must be abandoned, 
at least for the present ; I must certainly quit Petersburg 
till the affair is blown over, out of delicacy to her, so 
f hat it is lucky that an offer of Prince Potemkin's affords 
me a ^, ..a oDportunity. He wishes me to go to Cherson ; 
he makes me Ko,, tenant-Colonel in the army, with 
a promise of promoting me as BO o« as possible. As to 
employment, I am to do anything I am fit for and 
choose to do." 


• for 


Journey to the Crimea— He is settled for a Time at Cricheff— Preparations 
for Ship-building — Extent of his Engagements — Military Duties — 
Manufacture of Steel — Building of the River Yacht Vermicular — 
Arming of a Flotilla at Cherson— Defeat of the Turkish Fleet, June 1788 
— Bentham receives the Military Order of St. George, with the Bank of full 
Colonel, and other Rewards — Privateering — Appointed to a Cavalnr 
Regiment in Siberia — Excursion in the Country of the Kino* 13 *' 1 '' 89 — 
Expedition to the Mouth of the River Ob — Kira~ ignorance of Fire — 
Ship-building at Kamschatka for the A««rfcah Fur Trade — Visits Paris 
on his Way to JEngJantU 

The appointment that had been given to Mr. Bentham of a 
lieutenant-colonel in the army, had never before been 
granted either to foreigner or native until after they had 
already served in an inferior military rank; the new 
lieutenant-colonel had also the farther advantage of beinp; 
independent of any other authority than that of Prince Po- 
temkin. It may be considered as particularly honourable to so 
young a man, and to a foreigner, that, besides enjoying the 
friendship of the two successive English ambassadors, Sir 
James Harris (Lord Malmesbury) and Mr.Fitzherbert(Lord 
St. Helens), of the French ambassador, the Count de Segur. 
afterwards so eminently distinguished by his literary works, 
he was on equal terms of intimacy and friendship with most 
of the principal persons who then figured at the Residence. 
His journey from St. Petersburg was in the same carriage 
with Prince Potemkin, who treated him more as he would 
have done a son than even as a friend ; it was to visit the 
Prince's estates and the newly acquired province of the 
Crimea. After this tour of inspection, Lieutenant- 
Colonel Bentham settled himself for a time at Cricheff. 


This town is part of an estate, the property of the Prince ; 
the whole estate is larger than any English county, its 
population amounted to above 40,000 males. The country 
produced the principal articles of naval stores in great 
abundance, and they were of easy transport to the Black 
Sea by the river Soje, which ran through the estate. 

His friend, Colonel Kibaupierre, who had an estate on the 
Dnieper, not far from Omsk, being desirous of engaging 
some. Englishman, to introduce improvements, Lieutenant- 
Colonel Bentham, on writing to his brother, in hopes of 
engaging a suitable person, gave many particulars of the 
present state and capabilities of the property. Although 
snow remained on the ground five months of winter, the 
land produced corn, hemp, and flax, and, in general, all 
the hardy fruits of England. To give an instance of the 
abundance of labouring hands, he mentioned that whilst 
he was there his friend ordered a plantation to be made 
on a spot which he had chosen for a garden, but where 
there was not a single tree. The person in charge said he 
would take 1000 of his (Colonel Ribaupierre's) mother's 
peasants, and 300 of his own, and in one day he should 
have a plantation of 3000 young trees, taken up with their 
roots from the adjacent woods. 

Bentham's letter on the subject of this estate exhibits 
an instance of the way in which he could turn his 
attention to agricultural as well as other matters. He 
suggested the introduction of potatoes, and the making 
of hemp and linseed oils, so that besides the profit 
which these articles would afford, a still more consider- 
able one would be obtained by fattening cattle with 
the oil cakes. Owing to the deficiency of manure, the 
returns of grain are poor, and it is miserably small. 
" Ground is never manured nor seed sown here for hay ; 
what happens to grow is cut ; ploughs don't take deeper 
than about three inches, as you may imagine when I tell 
you that never more than one horse about the size of an 


ass is put to draw them." Since that time, there have 
been in some parts of the empire great improvements in 
agriculture ; but, generally speaking, it is still much in 
arrear of the cultivation of land in other countries. 

On Prince Potemkin's estate he sa} T s : " A man will 
cultivate here six acres of land, besides his garden of 
cabbages, turnips, carrots, &c. and the cutting of hay, 
where he can find it growing on waste land, for his horses. 
He ploughs his land, dungs it, sows it, reaps the corn, and 
dries it in a kind of oven before he threshes it ; he makes 
all his instruments, and, by the help of his wife, makes 
his clothes, and supplies all his wants." 

"May there not," he asks, "be a chance of obtaining 
the sugar from some root or fruit so as to come cheaper 
than what is imported ? Water-melons, for example, con- 
tain as much as an equal weight of grapes, and they may 
be had in some parts of the country as cheap as any 
vegetable substance." 

Settled at Cricheff, he says, in a letter to his father, 
18th July, 1 784: " The natural advantages of the situation 
of this place, together with the much more important 
consideration of its being the private property of the 
Prince, made me choose it for the puttiDg in execution 
some of my ideas of improvement in ship-building. I am 
to be at liberty to build any kind of ships, vessels, or boats, 
whether for war, trade, or pleasure ; and so little am I 
confined in the mode of constructing them, that one day, 
in arguing with the Prince about some alterations in a 
frigate he proposed building, to make a present of to the 
Empress, he told me, by way of ending the discussion, 
that there might be twenty masts and one gun, if I 
pleased." "Workmen and assistants, I am told to find 
where I can, and on what terms I can. Ships of above 200 
tons cannot be built here; their frames only can be prepared." 

"The journey I have been making this spring with the 
Prince, to me who do not think much of fatigue, has been 


in every respect highly agreeable. Independent of the 
flattering manner in which he treated me, and the pleasure 
which must arise from being witness to the steps taken 
for the improvement of his Governments, I had not for 
a long time spent my time so merrily." 

" The news of the death of General Landskoy, and the 
affliction of the Empress on that account, made the Prince 
set out from Krementchuk with only one servant with 
him, leaving us all to disperse from thence according to 
our several destinations ; " so that Bentham was left to act 
entirely according to his own discretion. In the same 
letter he specifies the description of persons by whose 
instrumentality he was to build ships. Common carpen- 
ters and joiners were the only workers in wood to be found 
on the estate; of rowers, for row boats, there was not one. 
He had found at Krementchuk a young man from Stras- 
burg who had been made teacher of mathematics at the 
public school : " it is well if ever he has seen a ship 
building, yet this is the person I have chosen as the best 
qualified for assisting me in my present business, not for 
any great knowledge he has of mechanics, but because he 
seems capable of soon understanding anything, and pro- 
mises to be much more assiduous than any other person 
I could find : I have besides two or three Serjeants of 
the army who draw and write, and who can work enough 
themselves to be qualified for keeping the workmen to 
their business ; these, with a Danish founder in brass 
and an English watchmaker, are all I have been able 
to pick up fit for ship-building." A notable set of dock- 
yard officers and artificers, with whom to complete the 
frames of 60 -gun frigates, in addition to the construc- 
tion of sea-going ships of 200 tons ! " I have taken pos- 
session of what is called the Prince's house, though it 
is more like an old tottering barn with windows in 
it ; what I can find of his I make use of, what else I 
want I buy with his money ; what can be got to eat and 


drink I have, and I do the honours of the house as well as 
J can to those who come to fare with me." It happened, 
on that same da} 7 , that two ladies of rank did so on their 
way to visit the nieces of the Prince. His fare was not 
always of the most luxurious nature, that very day his 
dinner had been bread and salted cucumbers. 

The great disorder in which he found all the Prince's 
factories at CrichefT, induced him to offer his services 
for its correction. In a letter to the Prince, he con- 
fidently spoke of his ability to restore the whole into 
complete order, and to raise the factories to a degree of 
perfection which might most easily be attained. 

Prince Potemkin in reply entrusted him with unlimited 
powers for the execution of his plans, and placed all his 
officers under his control. 

The particular factories thus placed under his manage- 
ment were : — 

1. A rope walk, where all the cordage was made for 

2. A sail-cloth manufactory. 

3. A distillery of spirit from corn, to which was annexed 
a malt-house and beer brewery. 

4. A tannery and leather manufactory. 

5. Two glass houses, one of them more particularly for 
window glass. 

6. A manufactory for cutting and grinding glass. 

7. A pottery, principally for making crucibles. 

8. An establishment of smiths, coppersmiths, &c. for 
making and repairing all the tools and utensils required in 
the several fabrics. 

To the letter giving these details he adds: "Besides 
directing the above establishment with a view to in- 
creasing, as much as possible, the profits to the Prince, 
I must contrive, as much as may be, to ease the workmen 
of the oppression they have of late been subject to." 


Hitherto he had had the rank and the pay of a 
Lieutenant-Colonel, but without being attached to any 
regiment ; but in September he was given the command 
of a battalion. 

But at this time his operations were for several weeks at 
a stand in consequence of severe illness. On taking the 
command of his battalion he had to consider how, without 
exhibiting his ignorance of military matters, he might best 
learn the business of a soldier, and determined to instruct 
himself by close attention to what had been former prac- 
tice. In this view, when the major came to him for orders 
as to the hour of parade, " The same as yesterday " was his 
cautious reply. " How he chose this or that to be done." 
es As usual ; it is not my intention to make unnecessary 
innovations ;" and this, indeed, was truth. He soon ren- 
dered himself master of his military duties, and very soon 
perceived great need of amendment throughout the batta- 
lion, amongst the officers particularly ; they were, many of 
them, overbearing, rapacious, quarrelsome, some of them 
incorrigibly so. " Morning after morning," he said, " I am 
taken up chiefly with disputes amongst my officers : how- 
ever, I am in hopes of getting rid of three or four of the 
worst of them. Military decision I have not been able to 
put on so soon as the uniform." But he soon took upon 
himself the principal direction of the economy of the bat- 
talion. He was strict in enforcing discipline, yet by his 
gentleness and regard for the welfare of all ranks soon 
made himself universally beloved. Passionately fond of 
music himself, he wrote to England for a complete set of 
military musical instruments and for an expert drummer ; 
but at the same time the useful was not neglected, — an 
experienced farrier was one of his commissions, as he had, 
for military purposes, above 100 horses. His personal 
attention to the health and comforts of the men were 
constant ; at a future time, owing to his unusual expe- 
dients, he preserved his men in comparative good health 


during a very sickly season. One of the sanitary precau- 
tions that he introduced at that time as a part of military 
discipline, was that, at the daily parade, the surgeon should 
pass from man to man, examining individually their 
tongues. Out tongue ! may seem an out of the way word 
of command, but the first symptom of the prevailing dis- 
order was discoverable by the appearance of that member, 
and when thus detected by the surgeon the afflicted man 
was ordered instantly to the hospital, where in this early 
stage of the disease rapid recovery of the patient was 
almost general. 

In the Prince's manufactories he introduced a great 
variety of improvements, and of new objects of manufac- 
ture, amongst them that of steel. He had already, at the 
mines in Siberia, made experiments in the production of 
this article ; he now turned them to profit. The only 
steel to be procured at Cricheff was English, at the price 
of a rouble, then four shillings, a pound ; iron cost there, 
about three copecks — a penny a pound; the expense of 
cementation less than twopence; thus obtaining a saving of 
1500 per cent. He sent some of the tools made of his 
steel to England, amongst others a chisel that he begged 
might be tried by cutting off with it the end of a cold 
poker, or even some piece of untempered steel. In the 
glass house he experimented on a variety of different com- 
positions ; by one of them, a new one, he made ciwstal 
glass as bright as the best obtainable heretofore, which 
could be sold at twelve and a half copecks a pound, 
just half the former price. By the old process the ex- 
penses of the glass house were usually greater than the 
income from it, and never exceeded 600 roubles a year, 
whereas by the new one as much was expected to be 
cleared weekly, the profit being, even at the reduced 
price, about 400 per cent. Many experiments were made 
as to the fabrication of Eeaumur's porcelain, with the in- 
tention of using this material as crucibles for melting glass. 


Some of the specimens of the porcelain he produced were 
hard enough to strike fire with steel, and brass was melted in 
vessels of that composition, so well did it bear intense heat ; 
and he suggested the use of this material for culinary vessels. 

His chief occupation, however, was that of naval archi- 
tecture, and the introduction of improvements in it. He 
contrived and constructed vessels not exceeding 200 tons, 
the largest that could be floated down the Dnieper ; pre- 
pared the parts of larger ships, ready for putting together 
at Cherson; contrived light vessels for river navigation, 
which in use proved of double the speed of the best of 
those hitherto constructed, also other vessels for floating 
down timber. 

In March 1785, he spent a week at Moscow, and as 
general medical directions were much wanted at CricherT, 
he prevailed on an English physician to accompany him 
thither. He also added an English gardener (Aiton) and 
his wife to his colony of emigrants. Before August he had 
already built boats for exercisiDg men in rowing ; one of 
those boats had forty oars, the men being placed in two 
ranks in a mode of his invention. In a letter to his father 
he says ; " I have now about one hundred rowers pretty 
well trained. It is really surprising how quickly they 
arrive at a certain degree of expertness at anything which 
is required of them. They were all soldiers of my batta- 
lion who built the boat, as well as those who navigate it ; 
and I have not one man who has ever been to sea, or 
worked at anything about ship, vessel, or boat, nor scarcely 
any who had ever had an axe in their hand but to chop 
fire-wood ; yet it is with these men, without any other 
assistance than that of one English sailor, whom I have 
for managing the rigging, that I am in hopes of making- 
several improvements in the construction of vessels of 
different kinds. The worst is that my business is so 
various, and I have so few assistants on whom I can 
have the least dependence, that I have too little time 



to do anything so well as I wish, or as I see it might be 

In February 1786, he had the great satisfaction of 
receiving his brother Jeremy Bentham at Cricheff, who 
had made that long journey for the sole purpose of visiting 
him. One of the works on which Samuel was now en- 
gaged was the construction of a pleasure yacht. Prince 
Potemkin, knowing how heavy the boats and vessels were, 
that were preparing at the Admiralty to convey and attend 
upon the Empress on her intended passage down the 
Dnieper, induced Bentham to give a plan for a light 
rowing yacht, which the Prince wished, he said, to be in 
a new taste, and to outrow all others. He must have 
accommodations for sleeping, &c, but he left the number 
of oars and everything else to Bentham. 

The vessel constructed in consequence was indeed novel. 
It was 252 feet long, though its extreme breadth was but 
16 feet 9 inches. It was planned so as to pass over shoals, 
and therefore drew but four inches of water when light, 
and six inches when loaded and with its 120 rowers 
on board. That it might accommodate itself to the 
numerous and sharp windings of Russian rivers, it con- 
sisted of six separate boats, but so connected with each 
other by a peculiar mechanism that no interval was left 
between boat and boat greater than the diameter of a 
small iron pin ; by this contrivance the vessel could twist 
itself about as would a worm, and hence obtained the 
name of the Vermicular. The rowers were placed in two 
and part of the third of the head links, as also some of 
them in the sixth : these men were seated, four and four 
across the vessel, at two different heights, in such manner 
that the stroke of no man could interfere with that of 
another. The back part of the third link and the whole 
of the fourth and fifth links were appropriated to habita- 
tion, dining-room, with drawing-room, sleeping apartment 
for the Empress, accommodations for her attendants, and 


many contrivances for convenience and comfort by making 
use of space to the best advantage. The apartments, 
though of a good walking height within, were kept down 
to that of the rowers without, in order not to catch wind, 
and there were many new inventions in the putting toge- 
ther of the vessels with a view to strength, lightness, and 
cheapness of construction. The third, fourth, and fifth 
links being taken out, the remaining three formed a princely 
rowing boat. This Vermicular was completed just in time, 
it was hoped, to have received the Empress at Krement- 
chuk, but, unfortunately, Bentham arrived in it at that 
place, just two hours after her Majesty, tired of her heavy 
boats, had left it to pursue her journey to the Crimea by 
land ; but he received on board not only the English and 
the French ambassadors, Mr. Fitzherbert, and the Count 
de Segur, but also the Emperor Joseph II. Another barge 
that accompanied the Vermicular on this occasion, as her 
tender, was intended for navigation in the Black Sea. It 
was also built of timber, on the same principle, and it 
consisted of three links, and was provided with twenty-four 
oars. Many other vessels of the same general construc- 
tion were built for the convevance of timber and other 
produce from the interior to Cherson, in some of which 
vessels the links were connected by a very simple arrange- 
ment of a cross cord, but so that they also could yield 
easily to the windings so frequently encountered. 

The mischiefs which resulted in the manufactories 
over which Bentham presided from want of due inspec- 
tion, led him to reflect on the means by which it might 
be more perfectly obtained, especially in establishments 
where the number of efficient superintendents was so very 
limited as at Cricheff. The result was the invention of 
a building so contrived as that the whole of the operations 
carried on in it should be under observation from its centre. 
This invention has of late been called the principle of central 
observation. No allusion whatever has of late years been 

G 2 


made to its inventor. In the " Encyclopaedia Britannica " it 
is attributed to Jeremy Bentham, though in his letter to 
his father, published in his works, he (Jeremy) distinctly 
and repeatedly speaks of it as the invention of his brother. 
The letter is in the third volume of Jeremy Bentham's 
works, and in it are specified many uses to which buildings 
on this principle would be peculiarly applicable. 

When he had made shipwrights and sailors of a con- 
siderable part of the men of his battalion, it was ordered 
to the south in the year 1787. He had himself been pre- 
viously ordered to Cherson to direct the fitting out of a 
flotilla to oppose the Turks, who had lately commenced 
hostilities, no preparations for such an event having 
been made by Eussia. On this occasion Jeremy Bentham 
was left at Cricheff. His brother, in writing to him from 
Cherson, in September 1787, says : "I am here at present 
by an order from Greneral SouvarofT, Commander-in-chief, 
in consequence of MarduinofPs acquainting him that he 
had need of my assistance at this critical time." The assis- 
tance required was that of devising means of creating a 
flotilla of vessels of war, the materials for which were the 
pleasure galleys in which the Empress had descended the 
Dnieper, a few hoys and transports, " the strongest of 
which, according to professional practice, was not capable 
of carrying anything larger than a 3 -pounder." His inti- 
mate friend, Admiral MardvinofY, was his only superior, 
and it happened that at the most critical time Prince 
Potemkin called away the Admiral, leaving Bentham in 
sole command of the Admiralty department and the entire 
disposal of the naval force at Cherson. 

His inventive genius and his powers of making the 
most of materials at hand were here put to the test, and 
they failed him not. In some of the barques he put 36- 
pounder long guns : the breadth of the vessel not being suf- 
ficient for the recoil of such ordnance, if opposite to 
one another, he placed them so that those on the one side 


should be opposite the intervals between those on the other ; 
in men-of-war's long boats, and such like, he put in some 48- 
pounder howitzers, in others 13-inch mortars. Weak as 
was the miserable craft which he had to operate upon he 
strengthened it sufficiently by a small addition of support 
to the decks. 

In the spring of 1788, when this flotilla was to be 
put to sea, he was to have commanded it, but was for 
a considerable time laid up completely with a severe 
attack of ague, and a consequent extreme debility. In 
the commencement of his convalesence, he was wholly in- 
capable of application to any kind of even light reading or 
any other employment. 

When at length his health was restored, and the flotilla 
about to be put to sea, Prince Nassau came to Cherson, 
bringing orders that he should be employed where he 
might distinguish himself as a volunteer. Prince 
Potemkin accordingly gave him the command in chief of 
the flotilla, at the same time requesting Lieutenant-Colonel 
Bentham to be the officer next in command. The Prince 
wished Bentham to change from the land to the sea-service ; 
this he refused, though an advance in rank was offered him ; 
but he consented, though continuing in the land service, 
to be employed in the flotilla as long as his services might 
be deemed necessary. 

The flotilla, that had been patched up of every thing at 
Cherson that could float, was so despicable in the eyes of 
the enemy, that they deigned only to dispatch their small 
vessels against it, with orders to destroy it in their way to 
Otchakoff, the object of their expedition. But in a first 
engagement, 7th June, 1788, they suffered so much, that 
they ceased to think how easy it would be to destroy this 
shabby flotilla, and resolved to attack it with their whole 
naval force. This they did on the 16th of June, the Tur- 
kish fleet then consisting of ninety-six men of war, besides 
small vessels ; the Eussian flotilla not of half the number, 

o 3 


including fifteen or sixteen long boats. Paul Jones had a 
squadron of ships lying off OtchakofF, in the intervals of 
which the vessels of the flotilla were ranged in line on the 
17th, when one of Paul's armed merchantmen, having 
been struck by a bomb from OtchakofF, presently sank ; on 
which his squadron one by one came to anchor, and left 
the flotilla to shift for itself. Two of the enemy's ships 
were soon seen to have got on shore. The flotilla passed 
by them to follow after the rest of the Turkish vessels ; 
they retreated as fast as they could out to sea, and got 
close in under cover of OtchakofF. In the action of the 7th 
one of the guns on board Bentham's vessel had burst, 
killing two men, and wounding seven. He was standing 

O ? O CD 

behind it at the time to aim it himself, j^et, though not a 
yard from the breech, he escaped with no other injury 
than singed hair and an eyebrow scorched off. This had 
made him apprehensive of his own guns, so that on the 
17th, he at first fired only out of a 13-inch brass mortar, 
" till spirited on by success, I approached by degrees, and 
tried again our guns on the poor unfortunate ships; al- 
though forsaken by all the fleet, these two defended them- 
selves till the fire caught in different parts ; yet some few 
obstinate fellows kept firing although the colours were 
struck, and many prisoners taken out." The vessels were 
completely destroyed by the fire of the bombs and shells 
that had been thrown into them, which added not a 
little to the dismay of the Turks, whilst it encouraged the 

On the 18th, at daybreak, the Turks were again in line, 
" and our flotilla was below Paul Jones's squadron, which 
we relied upon no more for assistance." Bent ham, on rising 
in the morning, perceived that some of the Turkish ships 
of the line were aground, and communicated the intelli- 
gence to Prince Nassau. The signal for enefajrina: was 
immediately made, but as there was not wind enough to 
blow out the flag, a boat was sent round to give orders : 


" I, therefore, receiving the orders first, set sail and called 
to all I came near to follow me. We had about as much 
discipline in our manoeuvres as a London mob ; however, 
we advanced, as many of us as chose, immediately, and the 
rest by degrees." Bentham placed himself close on the 
quarter of the largest of the enemy's ships, and remained 
in action for two hours, exposed not only to fire from the 
great guns and musketry of the ships, but also to the still 
more dangerous fire from the guns of the town. " The 
bomb-shells and shot from those fell round me in a quan- 
tity that surprised me much that they did not hit me ; 'tis 
true they were random shot, and came from a distance." 
The enemy's ship surrendered ; boats were sent to take 
possession, when the battle re-commenced, till at length 
they finally submitted. Part of the flotilla was at the 
same time engaged with other vessels of the enemy. 
Bentham took fifty-six prisoners on board his own vessel : 
about 3000 were saved altogether, out of eleven ships 
taken or destroyed in this and the former engagements ; 
but many more men perished, as three or four of the larg- 
est ships were burnt and blown up without a possibility 
of saving many of the crew. " I kept seven of the officer- 
prisoners on board my vessel for about a week ; during 
which time the making their situation tolerably comfort- 
able was perhaps as great a pleasure as I ever felt." 
Prince Potemkin afterwards took them, as well as all the 
other officers, to head-quarters, where they were well taken 
care of. Of the Eussians very few men were lost on that 
day, and no vessel but a rowing boat, which was sunk. 
The ship which Bentham engaged was saved. She had 
been built for sixty guns, and was fitted out for Eussian 
service immediately • after she was taken. Seven other 
ships of the line which the Turks lost on that day were 
all burnt, and one was sunk. They were not purposely 
destroyed, but as all the vessels of the Eussian flotilla were 
furnished with shells like bomb-shells or others filled with 

G 4 


combustibles to be used instead of shot, there was no 
avoiding the burning of auy vessel into which they were 
fired. The remaining vessels of the large Turkish fleet 
were driven entirely out to sea. 

Prince Potemkin, as may be imagined, was trausported 
with the success of the flotilla ; all on board of it were 
advanced a rank : Bentham received a special reward for 
each of the three days' engagements — the military order 
of St. Greorge, advance of rank to that of full colonel, 
and a gold hilted sword of honour — the regiment to 
which Bentham was appointed, being one of the best 
regiments of infantry, and the most complete, consisting 
of 2,472, including all ranks. 

A victory so complete would be thought remarkable 
under any circumstances, but in this case there were many 
points that claim particular attention. In the first place 
this flotilla would never have triumphed had the usual 
routine of naval armament been adhered to ; that is, had 3 or 
4-pounders only been placed where Bentham fired pieces of 
30 or 40; or had those pieces been fired in the usual manner, 
instead of many of them in his new modes, — without re- 
coil, or if to recoil that one piece should draw out the other 
— by both which modes unexampled rapidity of firing was 
obtained ; besides which advantage there was the further 
one, of his having caused all the ordnance to be supplied 
with either shells or shot of a kind to produce combustion. 
"We have next to remark the efficacy of small vessels when 
opposed to large ones in shallow water. That those of 
little draught have the power of manoeuvring at will, where 
deeper ones are liable to take the ground, is obvious ; but 
besides that advantage, there is the further one that a 
small object, presenting but little surface to the enemy, 
escapes the aim which would take effect on a larger body. 
But even these were not the only peculiarities of this 
successful flotilla, for with the exception of half-a-dozen 
seamen, it was manned only by soldiers and landsmen, 


scarcely any of whom had ever fired a gun before the 
attack on the enemy began. Several of the vessels were 
even commanded by officers of the land service, who were 
totally unacquainted with naval affairs. Amongst these 
was Lieutenant-Colonel Fanshawe, afterwards Governor- 
(xeneral of the Crimea. In reverting afterwards to the 
signal success of this flotilla, Bentham said, however " I 
could not but feel that, in point of fact, the success had 
resulted far more from the manner in which that flotilla 
was armed, than from any extraordinary skill or bravery 
on the part of the combatants." 

Among the half-dozen seamen, most of whom were 
English, there was one in particular (Eichard Upsal) who 
came to Bentham at Cherson, having heard that (i there 
was likely to be some fun with the Turks," and begged to 
be engaged to partake of it — his services were accepted, 
and very eminent they proved to be. During the last 
engagement he observed that a firebrand had fallen into 
the magazine. With the coolness and promptitude of an 
English blue jacket, he followed the flaming log, brought 
it up on deck, and quietly threw it into the sea. 

While Bentham was engaged in the outfit of the flotilla, 
inducements were held out by Government in hopes that 
private persons would fit out privateers, but as none were 
found willing to embark capital in such a speculation, he 
joined with his friend Admiral MardvinofT and two other 
persons in fitting out a privateer. The command of it 
was given to one Lambro', always called Major Lambro'. 
This man proved eminently successful in taking Turkish 
vessels, becoming master of twenty-two sail. Such as were 
suitable he armed ; thus forming a little squadron, with 
which he even took • fortified islands. In May 1790, his 
squadron being increased to nine vessels, he attacked a 
Turkish fleet of eighteen, but the latter being joined by 
seven Algerine xebecs, they proved too much for Lambro'. 
On this he burnt his own frigate, and two or three others 


of his squadron. Though wounded, yet he escaped in a 
small vessel, which, with two or three others, was all that 
he saved ; so that the subscribers reaped no profit from 
their venture. 

Shortly after the signal defeat of the Turkish fleet, 
Prince Nassau, partly through ennui, fell ill, and found it 
more convenient to live on shore in his tent than on board 
his vessel; on which occasion he issued the following 
" order :" 

" To Lieutenant- Colonel Bentham. — During my absence, I en- 
trust to you, as the senior officer under me, the command of the 
whole of the flotilla under my orders." 

It was contrary to all order, and, indeed, letter of the 
law, that an officer in the army should command officers of 
the navy. Still Bentham feared that some pretext or other 
would be found for continuing him in the sea service, but 
on the receipt of that order, the white coats made a strong 
representation of the injury done them by putting them 
under a green coat ; so that the next day there came out an 
order from Prince Potemkin for all colonels to join their 
respective regiments. On detailing many of the above 
particulars to his father, Bentham observed that " fighting 
for once in a way was well enough, but it is an abominable 
trade to follow" and that in case of peace he should be 
much tempted to ask to change his regiment for one of 
cavalry in Siberia. This desire of his, which he had men- 
tioned to all his acquaintance, came to the ears of Prince 
Potemkin, who asked if he really desired such a change ; 
Bentham reminded him of the preference which he had, on 
many former occasions, expressed for that part of the empire, 
and that now there was no part of it which he would not 
quit for Siberia, where he had prospects of rendering his 
services most useful. The Prince immediately acquiesced 
in his views, gave him a regiment of cavalry on the fron- 
tiers, and placed in his regiment several officers who wished 


to go with him, furnishing money to pay for post horses for 
their conveyance. 

After Bentham's early exploration of Siberia, he had, 
on his return to St. Petersburg, spoken to Prince Potem- 
kin of the great capabilities of the River Amoor for naviga- 
tion, and for the carrying on of an extensive fur trade with 
China, Kamschatka, and the northern coast of America. 
The Prince had then wished him to communicate his ideas 
on the subject to the Empress, and had been dissatisfied 
that in his audiences a preference had been given to the 
state of the mines. The Prince now reminded him of this, 
saying a great deal about Kamschatka and the profits 
derivable from the fur trade there. Bentham, with a view 
to trading on the American coast, now obtained permission 
for four of the English seamen who had served with him 
in the flotilla, to be placed in his regiment, two of them as 
ensigns, the two others as second lieutenants. 

The Colonel gave up his regiment of Raijsk in due form, 
then repaired to his new command in Siberia. One of his 
battalions occupied a line of (so-called) fortresses on the 
Kirgees' frontier, from Tchernovitch to Simiarsk ; his other 
battalion was on the Chinese frontier, to the south of Lake 
Baikal; these battalions being about 1200 miles one 
from the other. He was not of a disposition to take his 
ease on visiting them, by travelling in the ordinary way 
along a beaten road, especially when there was beside 
it a vast extent of country unknown and unexplored. By 
diversifying his way, he would have to pass many rivers, 
over which there were no bridges, not to speak of other 
less essential conveniences, which would be found on the 
ordinary route. He therefore caused two carriages of the 
amphibious kind to be constructed, more simple than his 
former one, and built of the materials which the place 

Besides journeys in the interior of the country on his 
way from one of his battalions to the other, he, in 1789, 


made an excursion amongst his neighbours the Kirgees. 
He had leave from his general at Omsk to go amongst 
them to the distance of fifty versts, but he extended his 
journey so as to travel no less than 1200 versts in their 
country. He described the Kirgees as being at that time 
peaceable, doing no other mischief than sometimes stealing 
a few cattle, and now and then a man or two. He spent 
about five weeks amongst the Kirgees ; had regular audi- 
ence of their Sultan, and was altogether well pleased with 
their conduct and general disposition. He was the first 
European of any note who had been amongst them. No 
map, or chart, or any geographical description of their coun- 
try then existed, but he drew a map of that part of it 
through which he passed as accurately as circumstances 
permitted. On his subsequent return to England that map 
was inserted by Major Kennel in his delineation of that 
part of the world. It had not, however, been easy for 
Bentham to ascertain his route. Measurements on obser- 
vations made with instruments he had reason to suppose 
would not be tolerated, but he contrived a projecting knob 
on one wheel of his carriage, which knob, on passing over 
ground was pressed inward, and acted on an apparatus for 
noting the number of revolutions made by the wheel. It 
had been vaguely reported that silver and gold as well as 
copper mines existed in the Kirgees' country ; to ascertain 
this was one chief object of this excursion, but the journal 
which he kept of it, and which he sent to England, is no- 
where to be found. Its loss is the more to be regretted as 
the fulness with which it had been written had prevented 
his entering into details in letters. 

On the many journeys made in the amphibious carriages, 
the willing obedience of the peasant drivers and their firm 
reliance on their superiors were remarkable. While travel- 
ling with the horses of the country, the carriage was not 
stopped on coming to broad and even rapid rivers, but the 
peasant driver was directed to continue his course across 


them. On such occasions the peasants gave a wondering 
glance at their temporary master, then one of confidence 
in his superior knowledge, crossed themselves, drove down 
the bank and onwards across the stream ; the horses 
swam, the boat-built carriage floated, its inmates guided it, 
and on the opposite bank the land journey was resumed 
all safe and dry, the peasant again crossing himself with a 
slava Boghi! (thank God). 

During the summer he sent an expedition to examine 
the mouth of the River Ob, and a small part of the adja- 
cent coast of the White Sea, with a view to the attempting 
a passage by sea to Archangel for mercantile purposes. 
He did not conceive that any doubt could exist of its prac- 
ticability at certain times. The doubt was as to the 
degree of danger and delay which might be expected from 
drifts of ice which, even in summer, were brought by 
certain winds, so as to intercept navigation on the coast 
completely. Part of the men returned during the same 
summer, bringing a chart of the sea and part of the gulf. 
In consequence of the information thus obtained, the 
Colonel took to Tobolsk an officer of his regiment and fifty 
men, that they might build during the winter a seaworthy 
vessel, to be afterwards sent to the mouth of the Ob for 
the service of the men who had been left there. 

The English sailor (Richard Upsal), who had been taken 
into the service at Cherson, was also on this service. He 
had been much better educated than those of his calling 
usually are, and in every respect was superior to the 
general run of seamen. He had attained the rank of 
Major. During the expedition near the mouth of the Ob, 
the party fell in with a tribe of natives who were wholly 
unacquainted with fire. At the same place the party 
found coal lying on the very surface of the ground, with 
which they made a fire, and thus taught the natives its use, 
it may be presumed, greatly to their future comfort. Maj or 
Upsal, after his return to England, frequently recurred to 


this discovery, saying that one of the greatest pleasures 
which he had experienced was that of having afforded 
these poor, half-frozen people the means of obtaining 

The Colonel also, at his own expense, afforded funds to 
a party of English sailors for building and fitting out some 
vessels at Kamschatka, from thence to explore the opposite 
north-west coast of America. He commissioned them, if 
practicable, to carry on a trade in furs, which promised to 
be very profitable. This was in conformity with views 
which he had for many years entertained, and which had 
particularly attracted Prince Potemkin's attention. No- 
thing more than vague reports were heard of this expedi- 
tion till the year 1808. At that time one of the English- 
men returned home, and came to his former colonel to 
render some account of himself, his companions, and their 
doings. Unfortunately he was not the most literate of the 
set, but it was collected from him that the vessels had been 
built, that they made good their landing in America, con- 
structed a wooden fort on its coast, and carried on from 
thence a trade in fur, successfully and profitably. No spe- 
cific dates could be obtained from this man, nor any indi- 
cation of the precise site of their fort, but it is supposed 
that this, in point of fact, was the first Eussian establish- 
ment on the American continent. 

Nor did he neglect the exploring many interesting parts 
of Siberia, or the trade that might be carried on there. In 
a letter from the late Chamberlain Clarke to his father, 
some particulars as to the colonel's health and whereabouts 
were given, as obtained from Mr. Love, who had com- 
manded one of the vessels of the flotilla, and who had, in 
February 1790, seen " a Major Newton, who was charged 
with Sir Samuel's account of his discoveries to the Em- 
press at St. Petersburg. The major had left Sir Samuel 
in good health, vigorously prosecuting a commercial in- 
tercourse between Kussia and China." And this is all 


that is here known of those discoveries, as no copy has 
been found of the account w r hich the Colonel gave of them 
to the Empress. 

Notwithstanding these occupations, he failed not during 
the whole time of his command to bestow a regular atten- 
tion on the discipline, well being, and improvement of his 
regiment. He established a school on the borders of China, 
for both men and boys of the battalion stationed there, on 
the principal of mutual instruction. There still exist 
specimens of writing by boys in that school, w T hich, not- 
withstanding the short period of instruction, would do 
credit to pupils of the best organised school in any country. 
When he had thus set on foot many improvements in 
the discipline of his regiment, as well as laid the foun- 
dation for the better instruction of the men, having 
explored a great portion of country hitherto scarcely 
known, and done much towards the establishment of a 
lucrative trade on a scale more extensive than heretofore 
with China, and of a new trade with America, his never 
ceasing longings to revisit home, and those that w 7 ere dear 
to him at home, made him avail himself of a leave of 
absence accorded by Prince Potemkin to set out on his 
return to England. 

He had found the remote, and in part uncivilised, 
Siberia to be a country rich in natural productions ; the 
people in towns (especially at Tobolsk) of highly culti- 
vated minds and manners — a society peculiarly agreeable 
as being free from the restraints imposed upon it near the 
seat of Government. The country itself w'as in many 
parts picturesque and agreeable; in some of its wildest 
parts, east of Nijni Taghil, resembling an English gentle- 
man's park, in other parts producing wild fruits in such pro- 
fusion that his soldiers in the strawberry season were sent 
out to gather these delicious berries by pailsful. South 
of Lake Baikal the tenderest European fruits, as apricots, 
arrive at great perfection, and game of many kinds every- 


where abound. True, on some wandering excursions food 
of any kind was scarcely found ; but Siberia was ever after 
in his thought a kind of terrestrial paradise. 

He happened to pass through Paris just at the time of 
the first revolution, when his friends the Duke de 
Eichelieu, Dumas, the Count de Segur, and many others 
whom he had known in Eussia, were still allowed to retain 
their rank and many of their privileges. He was furnished 
with a billet of entrance to the National Assembly, on the 
last occasion when Count de Segur had power to give him 
one, and was with the Duke de Eichelieu in his box at the 
opera the last time that his Grace enjoyed it. 

On his arrival in England he had the happiness to 
find his father, step-mother, and brother well. His 
half brother Farr Abbott had married and had purchased 
a kind of sinecure place. Charles had already began to 
distinguish himself in that political career in which his 
legal knowledge and sound judgment led to his well- 
known future eminence. 



Journey through the Manufacturing Districts of England, 1791 — Classifi- 
cation of Mechanical Works — Death of his Father — Prison Archi- 
tecture — Mechanical Inventions and Improvements — He is commissioned 
by the Admiralty to visit the Naval Dockyards — Resigns the Russian 
Service — Report on Portsmouth Dockyard, 1795 — Improvements and 
Alterations in the Dockyard — He is ordered to build seven Vessels on 
his own Plans — Changes introduced in their Construction — Appointed 
Inspector-General of Naval Works — The Appointment sanctioned by 
the King in Council, March, 1796 — Increased Calibre of Guns on 

A life of idleness could never be one of enjoyment to 
Bentham. He longed to inform himself of what progress 
had been made since he left England in manufacturing 
arts, especially by the introduction of machinery. For 
this purpose, in the year 1791, he made a tour through 
the principal manufacturing parts of England. To his 
surprise he found that little advance had been made 
towards substituting the invariable accuracy of machinery 
for the uncertain dexterity of the hand of man. For steam 
power was then only employed for manufacturing cotton, 
rolling metals, and for some few other purposes, such as 
for pumping up of water. For the working of wood, though 
for ten years back he had written to his friends in England 
of his invention of planing and other machines, yet, so far 
as he could learn, no machinery had been introduced 
beyond the common turning lathe, and also some saws 
and a few boring tools used in the making of blocks for 
the navy. Even saws worked by inanimate force for 



slitting timber, though in extensive use in foreign coun- 
tries, were nowhere to be found in Great Britain. 

This poverty of the inventive faculty stimulated him to 
the exertion of his own powers, and he applied himself 
to the extension and improvement of the wood-working 
machinery, which he had so many years before contrived 
in Eussia. The logical turn of his mind led him to 
a conclusion that the artificial, but common classification 
of works according to trades or handicrafts, without 
regard to similarity or dissimilarity of operations, could 
not but be productive of a variety of inconveniences, 
even according to usual practice, and that it stood par- 
ticularly in the way when the object was the contri- 
vance of a good system of machinery. He therefore 
began by classing the several operations requisite in the 
shaping and working up of materials of whatever kind, 
wholly disregarding the customary artificial arrangement 
according to trades. When the operations had thus been 
classed, he next proceeded to the contrivance of machines 
by which they might be performed, and that, independently 
of the need for skill or manual dexterity in the workman. 

His father had lately died, so that his brother Jeremy 
had come into possession of the house and extensive pre- 
mises in Queen-square Place, Westminster. Mr. Bentham, 
fully impressed with the importance of his brother's 
inventions, gave up his outhouses as workshops where 
machines of kinds contrived by his brother Samuel might 
be executed of full size, and was about eno-asfing for a 
steam engine to give them motion, when a new turn was 
given to their application. Prison discipline was at that 
period a subject of general interest, and Grovernment 
manifested a wish to effect the improvements which might 
be effectually carried out in a Panopticon building. Jeremy 
Bentham, who describes the advantages of this construction 
in his letters, was therefore induced to listen to terms 
for undertaking the management of a panopticon for the 


reception of 1000 prisoners (Government wished it to be 
for 1500). He depended on his brother Samuel for the 
contrivance of such machines and engines as might be 
profitably worked by unskilled hands (the intended pri- 
soners). An extension of leave of absence from Russia was 
obtained for the Colonel, who proceeded not only to de- 
vise, but to have executed of full size, working machines 
for planing, sawing in curved, winding, and transverse 
directions, including an apparatus for preparing all the 
parts of a highly finished window sash, another for an 
ornamented carriage wheel, for none of which operations 
was either skill or manual dexterity of the workman 
necessary. Patents were taken for these several machines 
26th November 1791, and 3rd April 1793: the speci- 
fication of the latter is said to be the most complete 
treatise that has yet appeared on the subject of working 
wood, metals, and other materials. 

In conformity with the views of Government, the con- 
trivance of a panopticon prison of the requisite extent 
became necessary, and the Colonel undertook the task. 
In addition to such a central building as that which he 
had erected at CrichefT, he joined to it long, straight 
buildings to furnish appropriate accommodation for the 
prisoners, and for the great extent of space requisite for the 
machinery for their employment ; and a young architect, 
Mr. Samuel Bunce, was engaged to make drawings of both 
building and machinery, but the one and the other were so 
wholly different from former examples, that the contrivance 
of all the parts rested with the Colonel. The building too 
he designed to be fire-proof, as far as any structure could 
be made so. Wood he determined should form no part of 
it, excepting for floor; brick-work and iron were the only 
materials. According to drawings which still remain, the 
basement story was of brick-work arched over each compart- 
ment; the walls and divisions of the other stories, generally 
speaking, of brick-work also ; but iron, cast and wrought, 

H 2 


was introduced wherever wood was usually employed in a 
building. The window frames and sashes were of cast 
iron, but so designed that, whilst they afforded security 
superior to that obtained by the customary prison bars, his 
windows bore no appearance of restraint. Jeremy Bentham, 
in his letter of 1786, had spoken of solitary confinement, 
but Samuel was averse to it, excepting as a harmless 
means of temporary punishment of the unruly, or, for a 
longer period, of the refractory. It appeared to his mind 
that employment under the least possible apparent re- 
straint seemed the most likely mode of reclaiming the less 
vicious of the felons, as probably those also of a more 
hardened character. The brothers together had deter- 
mined on allowing prisoners a proportion of their earnings 
in hand, a larger portion to be laid up in store as a 
fund with which to begin the world at the end of their 
incarceration; also, in cases where the liberated might 
prefer it, it was intended to give them still employment, 
though at a somewhat lower rate of pay than the usual 
one to free labour. 

The general design of the panopticon having been fixed 
on, and the due proportion of its several parts for strength 
ascertained, a model of the central part was made; this 
and the machinery at work, became (as Mr. Bentham 
called it) a raree-show ; but it was not opened to the idle 
or the ignorant. Numberless persons of rank, of science, 
and of manufacturing intelligence, almost daily obtained 
an introduction to see the wonders at Queen-square Place. 
So well satisfied were all of the national advantages that 
would be derived from the use of that system of machinery, 
that it became the subject of notice in the House of 
Commons, where it was generally eulogised, but more 
particularly by Mr. Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville. 

During these first years of his return to England it may 
well be believed that, with workmen on the spot, he had 
caused various minor inventions to be introduced at Queen- 


square Place ; such, for instance, as hollow tubes of metal 
for articles which had before been made solid. The fire 
irons which he thus had made were particularly light and 
pleasant in use ; speaking tubes were fixed in the interior 
of the house, through which orders to servants might be 
communicated without calling them from a present employ; 
but the pursuance of an early idea now received much 
of his attention. He had conceived, even during the time of 
his apprenticeship, that many chemical and manufacturing 
effects might be better produced, and more economically 
also, in vacuo, than by the usual modes of operation. 
Much of his time and many of his thoughts were occupied 
for more than a twelvemonth in directing experiments 
that were made in a receiver exhausted by a common air- 
pump, but the receiver and connected apparatus he adapted 
to the several operations to be performed. The experi- 
ments, it is true, were made on a small scale, but they were 
sufficient to exhibit the soundness of his opinions on the 
subject, and to enable him to take a patent for the inven- 
tions. Amongst the experiments, distillation was carried 
on with a much less expenditure of heat than usual. 
Leather was tanned through the substance of the hide in 
the course of a few hours, the passage of the tanning 
liquid through it being repeated a sufficient number of 
times to ensure perfect combination of the tanning prin- 
ciple with the hide. A variety of substances were dyed in 
grain, leather and wood included. Wood was impregnated 
through its substance with a variety of salts known to be 
preservatives of timber, such as the sulphates of copper, 
iron, and zinc, as also alum and corrosive sublimate. 
Meat was salted, smoked, dried, and flavoured. Generally 
speaking, in whatever cases the presence of air impedes or 
resists the entrance of a liquid, impregnation was effected 
in vacuo with entire success. After the patent was taken, a 
friend made the first use of it in a cotton- weaving factory; 
this was to impregnate the cops of cotton with soapsuds. 

H 3 


The naval business of the British Government in its civil 
branch was that for which General Bentham had always 
entertained the strongest predilection. Communication 
with the Admiralty with the object of improving that 
business was therefore willingly acceded to. His represen- 
tations of the advantages which could not fail to result in 
the naval arsenals from the introduction of machinery, and 
from the use of steam engines to give it motion, were 
convincing to the Lords of the Admiralty, who, in the 
course of several interviews, expressed their approbation of 
various other improvements suggested. Early in 1795 
they arranged that he should address them officially by 
a letter, in which should be mentioned several particulars 
in reference to their intercourse with him, and that in 
conformity with the desire which they had intimated that 
he should visit his Majesty's dockyards, he should make 
an offer to do so. Accordingly, on the 21st April 1795, 
he addressed such a letter to the Secretary of the Admiralty, 
in which he mentioned that he had still leave of absence 
from the Empress of Eussia to the following September. 
The next day, 22nd April, he received a letter, which 
authorised him to visit his Majesty's dockyards for the 
purpose of suggesting improvements in them, and ac- 
quainted him that the Lords of the Admiralty had given 
instructions to the Navy Board "to order the several 
officers to permit his free admission to the said dockyards," 
and " to furnish him with such information and assistance 
as he might stand in need of." 

The authority thus given to him, the flattering approval 
of his ideas in private conversation, the desire repeatedly 
expressed that it might be possible to retain him in the 
service of his country, with the prospects that naturally 
flowed from this state of things (to use his own words), 
"led to the relinquishing his intentions of returning to 
Eussia," and he shortly afterwards abandoned the emolu- 
ments, the gift of lands, the honours that awaited him in 


a foreign country, and devoted himself entirely to the 
service of his own. 

He has been much and repeatedly blamed by his friends 
for this decision. The rank, the wealth, the honours in pos- 
session and in prospect which he thus gave up in Russia, 
far exceeded the utmost that was promised him in Eng- 
land. His friends affirmed that he abandoned a host of 
Russian friends ready to do him every service and a society 
such as could not but render life most pleasurable. This 
was all strictly true ; but he also had friends in England, 
and above all the improvement of the naval service of his 
own country had been the object of his ambition from 
his boyhood. His letters remain to prove that at times 
of his greatest hopes in Russia, and when he was enjoy- 
ing the greatest honours there, naval improvement in his 
own country was still with him the paramount thought. 

Brigadier-Greneral Eentham, though still retaining his 
foreign rank, may from this time be considered as exclu- 
sively in the English service and devoted to it heart and 

His first visit under the authority of the Admiralty was 
to Portsmouth dockyard, on which he made his report 
dated 29th May 1795. 

The benefits that have resulted from his intervention 
can only be appreciated by a survey of his many services. 
It will consequently be essential, in noticing the most 
important of them, to enter into details sometimes of 
a purely technical nature. But so rapidly of late has 
science advanced, that those technicalities are now likely 
to be comprehended and even read with that degree of 
interest which the civil concerns of the navy now excite, 
where true economy, is the object in view. Throughout 
the whole of the General's English service, it will be 
seen that his main endeavour was to produce effects not 
only more perfectly but at a less cost than before ; so that 
his suggestions of improvement, if brought to the severest 

H 4 


test of arithmetical calculation, would be seen to involve a 
lessening of expenditure. 

A plan which involved very costly masonry works in 
Portsmouth dockyard had been ordered to be carried into 
execution previously to his visit in 1795. In his report 
he objected to many of those works as being of little use 
in comparison with their cost. One of them was a double 
dock, which was necessarily more costly than two single 
ones, use being taken into account, because a ship in the 
upper dock must remain there after it was finished, till the 
work required to the vessel in the lower dock was completed 
likewise. He objected to the costly repairs that were being 
carried on in the basin without making any enlargement 
of it, although by its extension the expense of additional 
work would be little compared to the increased accommo- 
dation which it would afford. He also objected to the 
jetties as proposed, because as they were planned they 
would not afford means of docking and undocking the 
number of ships that might have to be moved in a tide. 
In place of those works objected to, he proposed an 
enlargement of the basin, two single docks, an ar- 
rangement of the jetties which would afford means of 
moving the greatest number of ships which would be taken 
in or out of the enlarged basin in a tide. His proposals 
were adopted, and the works were subsequently executed 
according to his plans. Portsmouth dockyard was thus 
rendered pre-eminently suited (and was universally ac- 
knowledged to be so) for the most important business of 
that port in times of war, namely, the graving of ships of 
the line ; that is, examining their bottoms and executing 
trifling repairs to them. 

The effect of these improvements was not confined to 
the advantage of enabling a greater number of vessels to 
be forwarded at one time. That was in fact but a second- 
ary consideration. He had in early life witnessed the 
gross abuses, the embezzlement of materials, the extra 


cost and inferiority of all workmanship when repairs of 
ships were executed afloat as it was termed, that is, when 
they were lying at moorings in a harbour or at a road- 
stead. He now saw that the same mischiefs still continued 
— artificers lost much time in rowing backwards and 
forwards to their work, and they were frequently paid 
extra wages under some concealed form. Materials were 
stolen or embezzled to a large amount in taking them to 
ships afloat ; and want of supervision induced indolence 
and carelessness in the artificers. To remedy these evils, 
by enabling repairs to be carried on in a great number of 
ships at one time within the precincts of the dockyard, was 
a chief object; and by his proposed arrangements no less 
than twelve ships of the line, besides smaller vessels, could 
be repaired, fitted, and stored within the boundary of 
Portsmouth dockyard at one and the same time. 

Various other works that had been projected (some of 
them already commenced) were in like manner objected 
to, and other works proposed in their place both in Ports- 
mouth and Plymouth yards. Those to which he objected 
were discontinued by Admiralty orders ; several of those 
which he proposed were ordered for execution ; others 
remained for longer or shorter times under their Lordships' 
consideration, but no one of them was finally rejected. 

It is not easy to determine the manner in which General 
Bentham's improvements in our naval establishments 
can best be represented. They were so numerous, and 
of such different natures, extending to civil engineering, 
architectural, mechanical, naval architecture, ordnance, 
detection of abuses, with the remedies for them, and the 
general management of the civil business of the depart- 
ment. But the simplest way of giving a clear and com- 
prehensive view of them appears to be by taking them 
generally in the order of their dates, though occasionally 
pursuing the same subject at once to its completion. 

In noticing the several services in which General 


Bentham was from this time engaged by the Admiralty, use 
will be made of an official register of correspondence, also 
authenticated copies of that correspondence. In regard 
to private communications with First Lords of the Admi- 
ralty and others in authority, a journal will be consulted 
which was commenced towards the end of the year 1796 : 
it was written by a person to whom he related matters 
which he wished to be noted, and he always himself looked 
over that journal, causing it to be corrected on the few 
occasions where the statement had not been strictly 

The correspondence first noticed relates to the construc- 
tion of certain vessels of war. In intercourse with Earl 
Spencer, Sir Hugh Seymour, and other Lords of the Ad- 
miralty, as also with the Comptroller of the Navy, he had 
given many particulars as to the usual mode of construction 
in naval architecture, which demonstrated a great want of 
attention to mechanical principles ; that, in consequence, 
ships were more costly than they ought to be, and, what 
was of still more importance, they were weak. In con- 
sequence of these observations and the facts adduced in 
support of them, members of the Admiralty Board informed 
themselves more particularly as to his ideas of naval archi- 
tecture, and the Board authorised him to have constructed 
seven small vessels, uncontrolled by any naval board or 
dockyard officer, upon his own individual responsibility. 
These vessels were two sloops of war, named the Arrow 
and the Dart; four war schooners, the Nelly, Eling, 
Kedbridge, and Millbrook, and a vessel planned to 
carry water in bulk for the supply of ships at sea ; thus 
precluding the need of coming into port for water, the 
most frequent cause of the return of large vessels from 
their stations. 

The chief objects he had in view in planning these 
vessels were their strength, their durability, their effi- 
ciency, diminution of first cost and subsequent wear and 


tear, and they differed materially in exterior form from 
the universal build. They were much longer than others 
in proportion to breadth, and much sharper also : similar 
proportions were first adopted in some of the early fast- 
going steamers, and since that time very generally in all 
vessels whether for war or traffic. The experimental ves- 
sels raked forward like a Thames wherry: the topsides, 
instead of retiring inwards at the upper part, were con- 
tinued outwards to the upper edge. The Great Britain 
has since been similarly built in this respect. By this 
new form vessels are better supported when pitching 
and rolling in a sea, than others where the sides retire 
inwards above the water-line. 

Oak for ship-building was at that time particularly 
scarce and dear: it therefore became of importance to 
exhibit the parts of a vessel in which other kinds of wood 
might be employed without detriment to strength. In the 
interior, therefore, fir was chosen where strength depended 
on resistance to tension, and beech or elm for some parts 
constantly under water. 

For ensuring strength, the combination of the parts of 
the whole structure was contrived on the principles which 
mechanical science has demonstrated to be the most effi- 
cient. Those principles were even then adhered to in the 
greater number of mechanical machines and structures on 
shore, but were neglected in naval architecture. The 
consequence of such unmechanical combination of the parts 
of vessels was that they always ivorked at sea, and that to 
so great a degree that the transverse partitions or bulk- 
heads could not be fixed: they were made to rock — that 
is, they were hung on rockers ; but General Bentham, in- 
stead of leaving the bulkheads at liberty to work, connected 
them firmly with the bottoms, sides, and decks of his ves- 
sels, so that they became a main source of strength. This 
innovation has at length come into general practice in the 
royal and in private dockyards. 


The shell of a vessel, being of plank, is fixed to the ribs 
or timbers, those timbers being of a curved form conform- 
able to the shape intended for the vessel. The timbers 
were all of them placed in the usual way, perpendicularly to 
the keel, thus leaving the plank at the ends of the vessel 
unsupported by the timbers. This deficiency was usually 
in a manner remedied by the insertion of a great weight 
of wood at the wooden ends, adding materially to the dead 
weight of the vessel, and that at a part where it was mis- 
chievous. In the experimental vessels the timbers were 
placed at right angles to the rising line of the deadwood, 
that is, conformably to the shape of the shell instead of to 
that of the keel. The timbers themselves were of less 
breadth than usual, being of not more than half the cus- 
tomary solid content, thus employing trees of about thirty 
years' growth instead of that of fifty years. The timbers at 
the ends too were made to cross each other, thus doing 
away the need for crutches and breasthooks, which, besides 
their cost and weight, were a frequent source of the rotten- 
ness so often found at the ends of ships. The beams of a 
ship, besides their use as supports to the decks, connect 
the sides of the vessel together ; the connection, in English 
ships, having been effected by supporting the beam on 
brackets, or knees, fixed to the ribs. The beams of ships 
had hitherto been made as broad as they were deep, con- 
trary to the well-known fact, that beyond a certain thick- 
ness it is depth that affords strength. The beams in these 
vessels were of the usual depth, but only of about half the 
breadth ; the number of them was increased, so that they 
connected the sides together at perhaps twice the usual 
places, and they were sufficiently near to each other to 
support the decks without the use of cartings and ledges, 
that is, intermediate pieces to which to fix the decks. Still 
more to prevent racking of the vessel, diagonal trusses 
and braces were introduced ; they were included in the 
structure of the fixed bulkheads, and in other parts of the 


ship, as between the pillars, they were introduced inde- 
pendently of any partition. The advantage of diagonal 
trusses or braces in affording strength had been well 
known, and was in general use in all works of mechanism. 
excepting that of a ship. This improvement has since 
been esteemed one of the greatest that has been made in 
naval architecture, but the merit of it has been universally 
ascribed to Sir W. Seppings. General Bentham had in- 
troduced them in all the seven vessels commenced in 
1795, and gave drafts showing them to the Navy Board 
25th October and 20th December 1796. The decks of 
ships in general were hanging, that is, in a curve from end 
to end, lowest in the mid-length, rising towards the ends. 
Decks thus formed afforded no tie against the extension of 
a ship from one end of it to the other ; in consequence of 
which, such an extension, called breaking of the sheer, or 
hogging, took place in all ships of the usual construction. 
The decks of the experimental vessels were made straight, 
thus acting as a string to the bow formed by the midship 
section of a ship. By straight decks the collateral ad- 
vantages were also obtained of enabling the midship guns 
to be carried higher out of water, and of affording more 
space in that part of the hold of a ship where height is 
most desirable. This invention, as it may be called, has 
since been adopted in various instances. 

It must be evident, on a moment's reflection, how much 
the strength of a vessel depends upon its plank. In these 
vessels its thickness was increased from the usual three 
inches to six in the lower part of the ship, an improve- 
ment which to a certain extent has since been adopted in 
many cases, but more particularly in ships fitted out for 
perilous voyages, such as the Antarctic expedition. The 
plank in the experimental vessels was also, at the ends of 
the ship, placed very differently from the usual mode: 
instead of extending forward and aft over the deadwood, the 
plank was made to terminate against it, as it does in mid- 


ships against the keelson. The bulkheads have been spoken 
of as affording strength by being fixed ; but besides this a 
most important improvement in naval architecture was 
effected by their means : they were contrived so as to divide 
the vessel into many water-tight compartments. This was 
no invention of General Bentham's : he has said himself, 
officially, that it was " practised by the Chinese of the 
present day, as well as by the ancients ;" yet to him is due 
the merit of having appreciated the advantages of those 
water-tight compartments, and of having introduced the 
use of them. Shipwrights, perhaps, may not be familiar 
with classic lore, but could they all have been ignorant of 
the expedient so common in Chinese vessels? — and it has 
lately appeared that Captain Shancks had employed them in 
one vessel. A late Act of Parliament provides that no iron 
steamer should be built without them ; yet iron steamers 
only are even now so constructed ; those of wood are still 
deprived of the advantage, although at various times it was 
often brought to official and public notice, from the time 
of the Committee on Finance, 1798, to the last of General 
Bentham's official letters in 1813. 

Water-tight compartments were not, however, the only 
expedients against foundering that were introduced in the 
experimental vessels. By the increased thickness of the 
plank, and by its arrangement at the ends of the vessels, 
the deadwood, the lowest part of the stern-post, and even 
the keel itself might have been beaten off without letting 
water into the vessel. The rudder was also so formed 
that the lower part of it might have been beaten off, 
and yet there would have been enough left to steer the 
ship by. 

The fastenings used in ship work were most of them 
unmechanical. The improvement of these, on which the 
strength and durability of a ship so much depend, was a sub- 
ject of first importance. The treenails in use were universally 
imperfect cylinders of wood, and they were forced into 


holes in the plank and timbers of a ship, those holes being 
of the same diameter from end to end. He invented a 
new form of treenail of different diameters at different 
parts of their length — in steps, as it were. New tools, 
also of his invention, were used to bore the holes of dif- 
ferent diameters, corresponding with the part of the tree- 
nail which they were to receive. Hence, instead of injuring 
the wood, like the common ones, the whole way through 
which they were driven, these new treenails slipped easily 
by hand into their holes for a certain length, then re- 
quiring only to be driven home for that portion of it, still 
uninjured, in which they were to take their hold. The 
new treenails could therefore be thicker than common 
ones, thus affording a more efficient hold. Both treenail 
and hole being made by appropriate machines and augers, 
the holes were filled up along their whole length, so as to 
prevent the admission of water and consequent decay. 
These treenails, though the advantages of them were so 
apparent, have not been brought into general use. The 
long bolts usually employed being both a costly and an 
inefficient fastening, short metal screws were in many 
cases used instead of them in the experimental vessels, es- 
pecially for fastening the butt ends of the planks. By 
these contrivances a much better hold than in the usual 
way was taken of the timbers and planks by both tree- 
nails and screws, at the same time that the timbers were 
less wounded than by the customary fastenings. A con- 
siderable saving was effected where the screws were sub- 
stituted for long bolts ; and the perfection of this form 
of treenails facilitated their substitution for many of the 
usual copper fastenings. The treenails were used exclu- 
sively for laying the decks. The sheathing nails were of 
a new form, the points wedge shaped, instead of pyra- 
midical, by which form, the broad edge being drawn across 
the grain of the wood, firm hold was taken of it. They 
were of pure copper, instead of being of mixed metal, in 


order to avoid an injurious mixture of metals when the 
sheathing should come to be re-melted ; and they were less 
liable to foul than those of mixed metal. Their heads 
differed from those of ordinary sheathing nails, being 
made flat and smooth. Sheathing nails of the same metal 
with the sheathing are in use, and the form of nail seems 
now by degrees to be coming into use for other purposes 
than that of ship-building; but neither the step-shaped 
treenail nor the screw is yet employed in naval archi- 
tecture, though screws are of such general use in all other 
works of mechanism. 

The Arrow and the Dart had Captain Shancks' sliding 
keels. The case for them was formed by two longitudinal 
bulkheads, water-tight. The effect of these several innova- 
tions will appear from the services which the vessels per- 
formed, from the appearance which they exhibited as to 
strength, on an official survey, and from the economy of 
their mode of structure, as it appeared on that survey, and 
from the very low rate per ton at which a contractor would 
have engaged to build others of a similar construction. 

For the comfort of the crew the height between decks 
was considerably greater than usual, so that the tallest 
man could pass upright under the beams, instead of having 
to stoop perhaps a couple of feet, or even more in some 
small vessels. A much greater space per man was provided 
for health and proper ventilation, there having been in a 
frigate but from fifty to sixty cubic feet per man, whereas in 
the sloops there were no less than 137 feet to a man. In 
various parts of the experimental vessels, which in others 
are dark, thick glass, either flat or convex, was introduced 
as illuminators. But the invention which beyond all others 
contributed to the health and comfort of the men was that 
by which water was preserved sweet at sea. This deside- 
ratum, so long vainly sought for, was effected by the in- 
vention of metallic tanks for carrying the water, instead 
of the, till then, universally employed cask. This very great 


improvement was not confined to points which alone would 
have stamped it as of first-rate importance, the health and 
comfort of the men. The form of those tanks enabled 
nearly a double store of water to be stowed in the 
space usually filled with casks ; and as the want of water 
was the most frequent cause of a ship's return to port, 
vessels were thereby enabled to remain much longer on 
their stations. At that time the metal that could be most 
economically employed for tanks was copper, tinned for 
health's sake, and supported by wood for strength ; and 
they were made to the shape of the vessel, so as to lose no 

Sources of real danger to a vessel of war, as well as of 
apprehension of it, are explosions of gunpowder, and the 
incumbrances in the interior of a ship's side which impede 
or prevent shot holes from being easily got at to be plugged. 
In these sloops the powder, like the water, was stowed in 
metallic canisters instead of casks. The canisters were, in 
like manner, formed of the shape of the magazine, and 
their casings were part of the vessel. The powder itself 
was thus preserved from wet or moisture, consequently 
no injury could result by surrounding the canisters with 
water. Accordingly, in case of danger from fire, means 
were provided for letting water into the magazine around 
and over the canisters. Magazine lights too, in the cus- 
tomary mode, were fraught with danger. They were 
no other than common candles placed in a space parti- 
tioned off with glass from the magazine. Instead of such 
a light safety-lamps were substituted. The safety was 
obtained by placing the lamp in the centre of a double glass 
case ; the space between the inner and the outer glass being 
filled with water in such manner that in case of breakage the 
water would necessarily extinguish the light. The tubes for 
the admission of fresh air and the emission of foul were so 
arranged that no sparks could find their way through them. 
To facilitate the stopping of shot-holes, the sides of the 



vessel above water were unincumbered with store-rooms, 
instead of which fixed binns above the middle of the vessel 
were introduced, not higher than tables, leaving a clear 
space around as well as above them. Besides thus giving 
easy access to the sides of the vessel, the stores were more 
easily got at than in the usual store-rooms. 

During General Bentham's first visit to Portsmouth 
dockyard in May 1795, he was met by Sir Hugh Seymour, 
then the most active naval Lord of the Admiralty. 
Sir Hugh entered much into the discussions respecting 
Bentham's proposed improvements ; and the reasons given 
for his innovations induced strong expressions of a desire 
that he should without further delay accept a permanent 
engagement in the naval department. On his return 
to London, Earl Spencer and Sir Charles Middleton, then 
Comptroller of the Navy, cordially joined in this opinion. 
Sir Charles had himself, before this period, perceived the 
incompetency of the existing Civil Naval Boards to deal 
with the introduction of improvements, and had contem- 
plated the institution of an intermediate Board between the 
Admiralty and the Navy Boards, and had already drawn 
up a paper on the subject, which he now communicated 
to General Bentham. According to that sketch improve- 
ments of every description for the construction of ships 
and their armament, and all the works subservient to 
the preparation of our fleets, were to form the business of 
this Board. He said that the members of his proposed 
Board must be selected with the greatest care ; " their 
abilities and knowledge must be first-rate in mechanics, 
in ship-building and in professional sea-skill and accom- 
plishments." Apparently from despair of finding these 
several requisites combined in any one individual, Sir 
Charles proposed that his Board should consist of three 
superior members with competent assistants ; and he ex- 
pressed an earnest wish that Bentham should become the 
President of such a Board. But as he held joint manage- 



ments under any form whatever to be an insuperable bar to 
efficiency in an office of such a nature, he would not accept 
it. He proposed, however, as one mode in which he might 
be useful, that he should return for a time to Russia, at 
the expiration of his leave of absence, to pursue the course 
of experiments which he had there commenced ; and that 
in the mean time he should enable others, under their 
Lordships' protection, to carry on several improvements of 
which he had already exhibited the efficac}^. This proposal 
was at first listened to without dissent ; but the novelty of 
it, and the apprehension of the trouble which it would occa- 
sion, were alleged as reasons for its rejection. Their Lord- 
ships, in order to retain him in the British service, ulti- 
mately decided on creating a new office, the constitution of 
which they adopted conformably to his suggestions. 

That constitution was indeed peculiar. It was based on 
individual and strict responsibility, a feature without 
example in the civil service of the department, although 
pervading the military branch, and habitually enforced 
throughout all grades of the military officers of the navy. 
This new office, it was determined, should be that of an 
Inspector-General of Naval Works, and that Brigadier- 
Greneral Bentham should be the Inspector- General. He 
was provided with assistants; but he alone was made 
individually responsible for the whole business of his office. 
To ensure the observance of that responsibility, and to 
affix upon him personally any dereliction from his duty, 
all orders from his superiors (the Board of Admiralty) were 
conveyed to him in writing by their Secretary. In like 
manner every opinion of his given to their Lordships, as 
also all his proposals of improvement, together with the 
reasons on which such- opinions and improvements were 
grounded, were submitted to them, not verbally, but in 
ivriting, subscribed by his sole signature. He had no 
authority of any kind, or over any person whatever, the 
assistants in his own office excepted. In regard to them 

I 2 


he had entire control, as he was himself alone responsible 
for every business in which these assistants might be 
employed, though he had no power either of appointment 
or dismissal. 

The assistants suggested as desirable in the office were a 
mechanician, a civil architect, and a chemist ; professions of 
which not a single individual was at that time engaged i n 
any branch or department of the naval service. A secre- 
tary was also allowed to the office, two draughtsmen or 
clerks, according as their services in one or the other of 
these duties might be required, and a messenger. The 
office itself was under the same roof with the Admiralty. 

So much was determined on after much discussion. 
When Bentham's leave of absence from Eussia expired, 
he did not return to that country, considering that the 
Admiralty had not only pledged themselves to employ 
him at home in the promotion of naval improvement, 
but that it was with an ardent desire on their part, most 
flatteringly expressed, that his own country should hence- 
forward reap the benefit of his acquirements and his genius. 

Early in this same year the attention of the Duke of 
York had been attracted to the improvements of various 
kinds suggested by Bentham, amongst others to a bag- 
gage waggon of his invention, which, by order of Prince 
Potemkin, had been provided for a corps of yagers. Con- 
ceiving that such waggons would be very useful in the 
English army, the Duke of York communicated with 
Bentham on the subject, and, having examined a small 
model of such a vehicle, expressed a wish that a similar 
one of full size should be constructed on his account. It 
was accordingly completed, and tried satisfactorily on the 
Thames. These baggage waggons were amphibious, on the 
same principle with the carriages which he had devised in 
Siberia. The one now made was calculated for the con- 
veyance of baggage of any description, or of the sick, or of 
women, or even for artillery. It was in the form of a boat, 


to which axletrees were fixed carrying a pair of wheels. A 
cover was adapted to the body of the waggon, which cover 
when taken off was a boat ; both body and cover were pro- 
vided with means of rowing, and with moveable seats, so 
that, on coming to a river, the body on being driven into 
it sufficed for the transport of its contents ; and its cover, 
having been lifted off, was ready as a boat for the convey- 
ance of a considerable number of men. This baggage 
waggon was made of copper sheets, secured to ribs, and it is 
believed was the first vessel of any description of which the 
exterior was formed of metal. Engagements with the 
Admiralty precluded his attention to this invention ; and 
it still rests in abeyance till some one shall take it up, and 
have leisure and inclination to bring it into use. 

During the discussions relative to the institution of the 
new office of Inspector-Greneral of Naval Works, 2000/. per 
annum had been spoken of by members of the Admiralty 
Board as a proper salary for any man possessed of the 
requisite qualifications. To this Lord Spencer acquiesced. 
Bentham continued to be employed in naval concerns 
alone for many months, under the impression that no 
farther changes would be made respecting the office, when 
apprehensions were aroused. A variety of obstacles were 
thrown in the way of the institution of the office altogether, 
and endeavours were made at all events to diminish its 
appearance of superiority. Not only was the salary to be 
reduced, but the title of the office to be changed. The 
former was reduced to 750/. a year, to give it the appear- 
ance of inferiority to that of a Commissioner of the Navy 
(800/.) ; but in consequence of Bentham's remonstrance to 
Lord Spencer (February 1796) the title of the office was re- 
tained unchanged. • Emolument had never been his object 
in leaving the service of Eussia, in which he was assured of 
far greater advantages than any that could be expected in 
the English service. In his letter to Earl Spencer he ex- 
pressed his sincere wish that the salary should be left unfixed, 

I 3 


until the services rendered by the office should be found to 
warrant the raising of it to the intended pitch. But Lord 
Spencer was, as it were, compelled by opposition to fix the 
salary at the 7501., giving as his reason for so doing the 
despair of finding an adequate successor. In addition, 
however, to the nominal salary, 500^. a year was added in 
his favour individually. He saw too well the need for 
improvement throughout the civil concerns of the depart- 
ment to relinquish the hope of effecting it ; and, though 
he was still assured by Eussian authorities of a compliance 
with all his wishes if he should return to that country, and 
was strongly urged to do so, yet he consented to accept 
the proposed place at home. 

At length, 23rd March 1796, the institution of the 
office of Inspector-Greneral of Naval Works was sanctioned 
by the King in Council, and on the 25th of the same 
month Bentham was appointed Inspector-General : " Whose 
duty it should be to consider of all improvements in 
relation to the building, fitting-out, arming, navigating, 
and victualling ships of war, and other vessels employed 
in His Majesty's service, as well as in relation to the 
Docks, Slips, Basins, Buildings, and other articles apper- 
taining to His Majesty's Naval Establishments." 

The chemist to assist the Inspector-Greneral was ap- 
pointed on the recommendation of Mr. Wyndham, but of 
all the other assistants the choice was left to the Inspector- 
Greneral. Mr. Samuel Bunce was the first architect, Mr. 
Rehe the mechanist ; the secretary, Mr. John Peake, had 
to this time been an officer in the navy ; one of the 
draughtsmen, Mr. Barr, was chosen, not on account of any 
neatness or proficiency in drawing, but because, having 
originally served his apprenticeship in a dockyard, he 
would be eligible for employment in a naval arsenal, and 
because, as he had been for several years accustomed to 
working machinery of Bentham's invention, he was well 
suited to be intrusted with the management of it, when it 


should be introduced in the dockyards. The other clerk 
or draughtsman was Mr. Richard Upsall, who had served 
in the same vessel in which was Bentham himself during 
the three days' engagement with the Turks. 

To carry out his improvement in the mode of arming 
vessels of war, he submitted a proposal for making certain 
experiments at Woolwich Warren, to ascertain the best 
mode of fitting the gun-carriages for the sloops of war 
building according to his ideas. The principal object of 
these experiments was to ascertain the degree of strength 
really necessary, so that no needless weight or expense 
might be employed. Experiments in consequence were 
made, but they were altogether useless. Bentham had in- 
tended to have employed carriages which prevented recoil 
of the gun, that is, made on the same principle on which he 
had mounted ordnance at Cherson, and which had been 
used with such good effect in actual warfare in the 
Liman of Otchakoff. He sent to Woolwich carriages made 
on this principle to be experimented on ; but the Ordnance 
officers, instead of employing them as furnished, made 
one of their two experiments on a part, it is true, of 
one of the carriages, but instead of the other part which it 
was necessary to use they substituted a mere block of wood. 
The officers reported on their experiments, condemning, as 
a principle, the prevention of the recoil of a piece of 
artillery, and, consequently, the mode proposed by the 
Inspector-G-eneral, although, in fact, it had not been tried. 
The Report was transmitted to him for his observations. 
In submitting his remarks upon it, he brought to their 
Lordships' notice that the principle of non-recoil, as he 
had introduced it, was nothing more than applying to 
artillery of medium . sizes the same principle that is in 
constant use for ordnance of the largest and of the smallest 
calibres, namely, the mortar and the swivel gun. Farther 
trials were accordingly made, both ashore and afloat, of 
guns mounted so as not to recoil ; the result of which was, 

I 4 


their sanction of the mode which he had proposed for 
arming the Arrow and the Dart. 

The ordnance which he destined for these vessels, small 
as they were, were 3 2 -pounders, twenty-eight in number 
for each vessel. At the present day, guns of this calibre 
on board such vessels may be thought diminutive pieces 
of artillery; in 1796 it was considered a most daring 
innovation. There can hardly be a doubt but that this 
example, in the first instance, and Bentham's urgent 
subsequent endeavours, were the means of introducing 
artillery of much increased power, now so generally in use 
on shipboard. 



Marriage — Prison Architecture — Invention of a Mortar Mill for grinding 
Cement — Chemical Tests and Experiments on Ship Timber — Means for 
guarding Dockyards — Dock Buildings and Fittings — Choice of Materials 
— Supply of Water — Precautions against Fire — Introduction of Steam 
Engines — Copper Sheathing — Coast Defences — Report on the Office 
of Inspector-General ordered by the Select Committee of the House of 
Commons — Intereonvertibility of Ship Stores — Cost of Mast Ponds — 
Effect of the Report to the Select Committee — Alterations and Improve- 
ments in Plymouth Dockyard — Abuse of Chips — Bad Conversion of 
Timber — Illness — Smuggling Vessels at Hastings. 

A mere register of the business carried on in Bentham's office 
is not the design of these memoirs ; it is not necessary there- 
fore to notice the reports made on proposals of various kinds 
referred to him for an opinion. It may be sufficient to say 
in respect of them generally, that the reasons on which his 
opinion was grounded were uniformly stated in writing, 
affording to the proposer the means of ascertaining how far 
he had been fairly dealt with. Not a single instance oc- 
curred, during the whole existence of the office, that any 
one had occasion to complain, or did. complain, of injustice 
done to him by the Inspector- General's report. 

In October of this year he married the eldest daughter 
of Dr. George Fordyce. 

In January 1797 it was in the contemplation of Govern- 
ment to provide a prison for 10,000 prisoners of war. A 
plan for such a prison was before the Admiralty, which 
they considered as enormously costly. The Inspector- 
General was requested to state his opinion of that plan, 
as also whether he supposed that the requisite security 


could be afforded at a less expense, and with less than 
1200 officers and men to guard the prisoners. Certain 
buildings of wood were in frame, ready to be set up. 
The Inspector-Greneral determined to arrange these shed- 
like structures round the circumference of a large circle, 
their inner ends pointing towards the centre, and leaving 
a space between building and building as airing ground, 
and to glaze the ends of them sufficiently to cause a 
thorough light through them from end to end. The 
prisoners, their cooking-rooms, hospital, &c, being so 
provided for, he proposed the erection of a guard-house 
in the centre, so that, on the principle of the Panopticon, 
the prisoners might at all times be under central obser- 
vation and control. Besides the small arms of the guard, 
there were to be mounted swivel guns, ready to throw 
such small shot as migdit be most efficacious in case of 
insurrection. He purposed that all the prisoners should 
be fully apprised of these powerful means provided for 
suppressing insubordination, so that no injustice would be 
done to them, were those means of necessity to be resorted 
to. By making the exterior wall a duodecagon, and placing 
a sentinel at each angle outside, every side would be under 
the command of two men, ready to repress any single at- 
tempt at communication with the interior, or to give notice 
by signal of any impending greater danger from without. 
By such an arrangement even a hundred men might be 
made to suffice for a guard to the 10,000 prisoners; while 
to the prisoners themselves this arrangement would be 
in the least possible degree annoying, as for their safe 
keeping there would be no longer need for guards or 
keepers to go in amongst them. The prison was not, 
however, erected, the Inspector-General having been in- 
formed that sufficient existing accommodation had been 
found for all prisoners of war. 

Specifying dates may at first sight seem useless pro- 
lixity, but as many of Bentham's inventions have been 


claimed by others, it is but justice to hirn to give their 
exact dates respectively. If, on the other hand, a previous 
claim might have existed, such dates will afford means of 
verif\ T ing any better title to an improvement. On these 
accounts they will be introduced throughout, and this must 
be the apology for it. 

On the 17th of January he proposed the construction 
of a mill of his invention, for grinding and mixing cal- 
careous cements — a mortar mill. The prejudices against 
steam-engines for a dockyard were yet strong, and as he 
dared not to propose official]) 7 the introduction of them 
for any purpose, this first mortar mill was to be worked 
by horses. But prejudice was not only agaiDst steam- 
engines, it extended to machinery of every kind. Still, as 
the works at Portsmouth were lingering in great measure 
for want of a sufficient supply of mortar, he was induced 
at his own risk to order a mill to be made according to 
his plans. The advantages of these mills were soon per- 
ceived, and they have been universally adopted by private 
engineers for all considerable works. 

Just previously to this time the Inspector-Greneral was 
under the necessity of reporting that the chemist was unfit 
for the duties of his office, which was virtually abolished 
in consequence of this report. At the same time there 
could be no doubt of the need of chemical science in 
regard to a great variety of works for the outfit and 
maintenance of the fleet. Many particular experiments 
had been set down amongst the first to be tried, such 
as those on which the goodness of copper sheathing de- 
pended ; the influence upon wood, which the natural juices 
remaining in it might have on its duration ; how far those 
juices might cause the difference in duration between 
timber felled in spring and autumn ; and by what chemical 
agents the mischievous effects of those juices might be 
prevented ; also a variety of experiments on calcareous 


A rooted aversion then existed, and is said yet to pre- 
vail in all departments of Government to the making of 
experiments that may be called exhaustive. Bentham, 
on the contrary, considered that where experiments were 
made at all, good economy required that they should be 
exhaustive. In timber, for instance, he had collected 
data which proved that under certain chemical circum- 
stances it was rendered very durable, under others subject 
to rapid decay ; that certain chemical agents, as sulphates 
of copper, of iron, and of alumine, were preservatives : 
but whether this good effect depended on the destruction 
chemically of the natural unassimilated juices remain- 
ing in the wood, or whether mechanically, on the filling 
up of its pores so as to exclude air and moisture, was 
then, and perhaps remains still, unknown. He would 
have caused experiments to be made to ascertain how the 
preservative material acted, so as to show which of the 
materials that were sufficiently efficacious was the easiest 
applied in practice, and the cheapest. 

His principal attention at this time was directed to the 
details of the masonry works which he had proposed for 
Portsmouth yard. Whatever the nature of ground to be 
built upon, it had been an uniform custom to drive piles 
as a foundation. At Portsmouth the ground was clay, 
impervious to water for a considerable depth, and capable 
of bearing any conceivable weight of superstructure ; but 
in parts, where piles of great length had been driven, 
they had not only broken up the clay, but had pierced 
down to a stratum containing water, to the great injury of 
many foundations. This piling he caused to be discontinued, 
notwithstanding the strong remonstrances of the dock- 
yard officers, seconded by the Navy Board. The stability 
of his great works there, after more than half a century, 
has proved the soundness of his judgment ; and the con- 
sequent saving of expense has been very great. This was 
no new invention, but the example thus afforded lias given 


confidence to many an engineer, who otherwise might not 
have ventured to build heavy walls on a bare foundation 
of clay. The form till then given to docks was ill suited 
to its purpose, as not having its parts conformable to the 
shape of ships, in some parts not leaving sufficient working 
room, in others giving useless space, which of course ad- 
mitted of its being filled with water that had afterwards 
to be pumped out. For his docks he contrived that the 
altars, or step-like retreats at the sides, should afford 
ample room for work, and the best shape for supporting 
the shores with which a vessel is held up, while at the 
same time there should be no superfluous space. The 
bottoms of docks had hitherto been formed of plat- 
forms of wood, a material liable to speedy decay, and very 
costly. For this he substituted inverted arches of masonry. 
This mode of structure was strongly objected to. The 
Comptroller of the Navy thought it even worth while to 
pronounce an opinion against it, supported by that of both 
the surveyors of the navy ; these opinions were said to be 
based upon the instance of Eamsgate, where Smeaton had 
attempted to introduce an inverted arch, but had failed. 
Notwithstanding this weighty authority, the Inspector- 
General's reasons in support of his plans prevailed. The 
bottoms of the docks, and also the entrance to the great 
basin, were made inverted arches of stone. They have 
stood, like his other works, the test of time, and the 
example has been so followed by private engineers, that 
inverts, as they are now called, are in very general use. 
Little regard was at that time paid in naval works to the 
comparative fitness of the materials employed, either as 
to first cost, fitness for specific purposes, or durability. 
Portland stone was generpdly employed at Portsmouth, 
costly as it was, and subject to decay, and wood was em- 
ployed for copings of walls. Instead of this he introduced 
granite for the copings of docks and basin, and Purbeck 
stone in place of Portland. Well-chosen Purbeck stone, 


when laid on its proper bed, is far more durable than 
Portland, and is so much cheaper, that by this single 
change of material a saving on each dock was obtained 
of no less than 15,000?. besides the farther saving of 
10,000/. on each dock by the other expedients of his 
introduction. These improvements and these savings are 
stated on a comparison with the estimated cost by the 
dockyard officers of plans not only already sanctioned by 
the Admiralty, but some of them then actually in the 
course of execution. 

Since these works have been brought into full use, it 
has been thought impossible that they should ever have 
been opposed. Yet at the time he had to contend not 
only with remonstrances from the dockyard officers, but 
with the more formidable opposition of the Navy Board 
to every one of his proposals. The Admiralty uniformly 
transmitted such objections to him. In every instance 
he had to submit in writing the reasons by which he 
hoped to refute adverse opinions. This consumed much 
of his time, which probably might have been more profit- 
ably employed; yet he did not consider it as altogether 
lost, since, perhaps for the first time, it brought each 
work to the test of accurate data, and of specific reasons. 
On no other grounds was a decision ever given in favour 
of his proposals ; and it so happened that none were ever 

The dockyards generally were ill supplied with fresh 
water ; vessels obtained their sea-store of it by means of 
boats, which carried it off to them in casks. Nor had any 
provision been made in any naval arsenal for preventing 
the ravages of fire, excepting, indeed, that a few small fire 
engines were kept in store. To remedy these deficiencies 
he presented in February the outlines of a plan, which 
he proposed for execution at Portsmouth, but which he re- 
presented as desirable for all public establishments at that 
port and elsewhere. He proposed the attainment of an 


abundant supply of fresh water at Portsmouth dockyard, 
by digging deep wells. This expedient, now so extensively 
adopted in this and other countries, was at that time rare, 
though not without example where the required supply was 
but small ; but for large supplies water was still only brought 
from distant rivers at a vast expense. He had informed him- 
self of all particulars respecting Mr. Yulliamy's overflowing 
well at Kensington, and of that which supplied the great 
brewery in Tottenham-court Eoad, while in Portsmouth 
dockyard itself the immense flow of water, so troublesome 
whenever piles pierced the stratum of clay, gave assurance 
that abundance might be obtained for all useful purposes. 

For raising water to the reservoirs, and for forcing it 
through the pipes and hose, he proposed a steam-engine. 

Now that steam-engines are of such general use in all 
of the naval establishments, the prejudice entertained at 
the end of the last century against them can hardly be 
conceived. The Lords of the Admiralty, convinced by 
Bentham's arguments in favour of that motive power, 
had from the first determined that it should be em- 
ployed for giving motion to his machinery; but as even 
they could not venture to sanction the introduction of 
steam-engines openly, they had authorised him to pro- 
cure one for facilitating the works to the experimental 
vessels at Eedbridge. It was ordered, but as it was not 
completed till after the vessels were launched, it was 
reserved till some favourable occasion should occur for in- 
troducing it in a dockyard. The cry had been, and still 
continued, that steam-engines would set fire to the dock- 
yard; that the artificers would rise, if an attempt were 
made to introduce machinery ; that neither efficiency nor 
economy could be effected by machinery for naval pur- 
poses. These and many other objections known to prevail 
against steam-engines, required on his part unusual cau- 
tion. At this time it happened that new pumps were 
required for pumping the docks at Portsmouth : he seized 


upon this favourable occasion to propose that the pumps 
should be worked by a steam-engine ; and specified the 
raising of water to extinguish fire as likely to be thought 
the least obnoxious use to which such an engine could 
be put. Still dockyard opinion was, that there was no 
use in setting up a steam-engine ; men and horses all 
along had done all the pumping work required ; what 
need for innovation ? His perseverance and his arguments 
prevailed, and the result has proved that those objections, 
one and all, were altogether groundless. 

It was in this year too that he commenced his investi- 
gations respecting copper sheathing, with a view to reform 
in the manner of treating and providing this costly article. 
Mr. Wyatt had proposed the use of tinned sheets, in order 
to prevent corrosion ; the General had in consequence 
caused one of his small vessels to be sheathed partly by 
Mr. Wyatt's tinned sheets and partly by the usual copper 
sheathing, but so mixed upon the bottom of the vessel as 
to render the experiment a fair one. The result was as 
might be expected, that the tinned sheets soon became foul 
with weeds in Portsmouth Harbour. He had observed a 
very great difference in the duration of copper sheathing, 
although it could not be accounted for by any known dif- 
ference in its manufacture. That this fact mi^ht be veri- 
tied and stand on official record, he caused samples to be 
furnished him of sheathing which had been remarkable for 
shortness of duration, as also of such as had lasted unusu- 
ally long. Some had been corroded in a few months, other 
specimens had lasted eighteen years ; yet of these there 
was no known difference in their manufacture, nor could 
any be distinguished by inspection. He could only report, 
therefore, that the great number of experiments requisite, 
both chemical and mechanical, rendered it impossible yet 
to give any final opinion on the subject ; but that those 
already made had thrown considerable light on the subject. 
Still, he observed, there were many instances amongst 


compound metals, which show that very small portions of 
impurity materially influence their immediate properties. 
He further stated that the mechanical experiments which 
he had already made were of great importance. The} 7- 
had proved that not only the hardness, flexibility, strength, 
and other obvious properties of the same piece of copper 
were greatly affected by the mechanical treatment of it, but 
also the remarkable fact, that its resistance to chemical 
agents might be increased as much as one third by mecha- 
nical means. 

At the beginning of the year 1798, the naval administra- 
tion was under serious apprehension that a descent would 
be made on our shores by the French, and that our means 
of coast defence were inadequate to the protection of the 
country. In his private conferences with Earl Spencer, 
this had been a prominent subject of discussion, and on 
the 20th January 1798, "the apparent urgency of 
the present state of things ' induced him to submit a 
series of " Queries relative to Coast Defence." They were 
suggestive of the means of making an effective and im- 
mediate addition to the mass of our naval force, general 
and local, and particularly applicable to the defence of the 

These queries, and the notes accompanying them, ex- 
hibit, perhaps, the most comprehensive view that has 
ever yet been taken of the real nature of the coast 
with a view to its defence. He points out a circum- 
stance of fundamental importance, not noticed by any one 
else even to the present day, namely, that the shallow- 
ness of the water on most parts of the coast is such, that 
" even our sloops of war cannot approach for the purpose 
of defence," but where " a desperate enemy in small vessels, 
and with certain winds, would be able to reach it ;" " that 
for the protection of those shallow parts there do not exist 
any other floating mearjs of defence than the gun-brigs, 
vessels incapable of working to windward," notoriously unfit 



for sailing, and not fitted for rowing ; and that the danger 
of stationing fleets between the great naval ports, rendered 
it desirable to have a mass of naval force composed of 
vessels capable of lying in the small harbours. 

It is true that in the present advanced state of naval 
architecture, vessels are not only constructed so that 
most of them can work to windward and are capable of 
sailing, but we have a steam navy at command, which 
is independent of wind for locomotion. Still, so far from 
shallowness of structure having been regarded as a desi- 
rable property, the tendency has rather been to give 
increased size and deeper draught of water to vessels gene- 
rally, steamers as well as sailing vessels. That General 
Bentham's views on the subject are looked upon as correct 
by men amongst the most competent to judge, is evinced 
by the evidence given before the Select Committee, 1848, 
on Navy, Army, and Ordnance Estimates, by Sir Thomas 
Hastings, who had been president, in 1844, of a commission 
to inquire into the state of coast defence. 

He then proceeded to submit many points of considera- 
tion, essential to the efficacy of a naval force, which at that 
time seemed wholly disregarded ; they were stated in the 
familiar language of private confidence, and in the form 
of queries; but as they indicate separate items of con- 
sideration, they may best be separately stated as asser- 

" The efficacy of a mass of naval force (cceteris paribus) 
depends partly on the destructiveness of the shot which it 
is employed to discharge, partly upon the promptitude 
with which the vessels of which it is composed, can be 
brought to act upon any part of the coast at pleasure. 

" All of our small ports are capable of admitting vessels 
that could mount carronades, and even mortars, of any 

" Coasting sloops employed in private service might be 
obtained by government in any number required. All of 


them are capable of being armed with from eight to 
twenty-four carronades, 24-pounders. 

" The smallest vessels (incapable of bearing the sea) are 
all of them capable of being armed. 

" The substitution of guns of large calibre for those of 
small calibre on board the existing stock of ships is the 
prompter and the cheaper mode of making an addition to 
the mass of existing force. 

" To enable existing ordnance to be fired with a doubled 
rapidity would, in point of efficacy, be doubling the force 
of that ordnance. The maximum of quickness of firing a 
gun with a given number of men depends upon the manner 
in which it is mounted : but the maximum of quickness of 
firing, as between any two modes, has never been ascer- 
tained ; nor even has it been so much attended to, as to 
have caused any regular set of experiments to be made for 
ascertaining the maximum quickness of firing in any one 
such mode." 

He next stated his mode of mounting ordnance on the 
principle of non-recoil, saying that the space necessary for 
recoil operates as a prevention to the mounting of guns on 
board many vessels ; that two men to a 24-pounder car- 
ronade would be sufficient for working it, if mounted 
without recoil. But knowing the prejudice against this 
mode of mounting ordnance, he indicated simple means of 
ascertaining what recoil was desirable. 

Thus, more than half a century ago, were these important 
improvements proposed, that have since so greatly aug- 
mented the force of naval armaments, — ordnance of large 
calibre instead of small ; carcases, shells, and missiles of the 
same class in addition to solid shot. In the mode of mount- 
ing ordnance now, although recoil is not yet prevented, still 
an approach is being made towards this improvement, by 
checking the recoil to a certain extent. And the mercan- 
tile marine of the country is also looked to by govern- 
ment, as a source of naval military strength, though 

K 2 


the nation has been put to an expense from which 
General Bentham's proposal was exempt. At present 
(under different shapes) a premium is given to ship- 
owners for the preparation of their vessels to fit them 
for the reception of guns. But he, by very simple, cheap, 
and expeditious means, contrived that a trader, in a couple 
of days, might be fitted for guns and armed ; made so that 
no expense need be incurred by the public, until the time 
the mercantile navy would be actually required for pur- 
poses of war. 

The Select Committee of the House of Commons on 
Finance, in the beginning of the year 1798, inquired into 
the constitution of the office of Inspector-General of Naval 
Works ; what, if any, benefits had resulted from it ? and 
issued their precept, that the Inspector-General should lay 
before them an account of the works in his department. 

In reply to this order the Inspector-General stated that 
the execution of all works remained, as before his appoint- 
ment, in the hands of the subordinate boards, but in as far 
as concerned the business of suggestion no limit whatever 
existed ; that his time had been chiefly employed in pre- 
paring and submitting to the Admiralty various proposals 
for the improvement of different branches of naval busi- 
ness ; that those proposals had been referred by the Admi- 
ralty to the Navy Board for investigation ; that although 
the opinions obtained in consequence had, it might be 
said uniformly, been against the proposals, the Admi- 
ralty had, in the most important instances, ordered the 
works in question to be carried into execution ; and that 
in no instance had any of them been finally rejected. 

The intercourse which the business of his office had 
given him with the several boards and establishments 
under the Lords of the Admiralty, had confirmed the 
opinion as to management which he had formed in early 
life. The more he investigated, the stronger was his 
conviction, that it is of primary importance that some 


one individual should stand alone responsible for the due 
performance of every duty. 

The more important of the engineering works which 
were reported on to the Committee, have already been 
noticed, as also the peculiarities in the hulls of his experi- 
mental vessels. But one method which he looked upon 
as capable of effecting great saving, should not be omitted, 
namely, that of inter convertibility. This principle is no 
other, he said, than that, wherever possible, an article 
intended for one particular purpose should be contrived 
of such material, size, and shape as might render it appli- 
cable to other analogous purposes. That it is a principle of 
very extensive application there can be no doubt, but as a 
general regulation it has not to this time been observed in 
practice. In regard to it he stated: "The accidents to 
which vessels, particularly vessels of war, are liable, render 
it impossible but that certain articles should occasionally 
be renewed; for this purpose a great deal of space on 
board ship is taken up by the stowage of spare articles of 
various kinds ready prepared." — " But in and belonging 
to a ship there are a great many different articles which, 
without rendering any one of them less fit for its use, 
might be made perfectly similar to each other ; by which 
means two spare articles in store, applicable to seven or 
eight different purposes, could, in the event of an accident 
happening twice to the same subject, form a more valuable 
supply than if duplicates only had been provided for each 
of these seven or eight articles." 

He had introduced this principle in several instances 
on board the Arrow. " Of the three lower masts two 
were made alike, the topmasts were all four alike, for 
there were two to the mainmast, one above the other; 
the three top-gallant masts were all alike, several of the 
yards were alike ; studding-sail booms were alike, five of 
the principal sails were either perfectly alike, or, by a very 
easy addition or separation, were capable of supplying the 

K 3 


place of each other." He further stated that by keeping 
this principle in view, at the time of proportioning the 
different classes of ships, as well as the different parts 
and appendages of them, ships at sea might not only be 
enabled to possess within themselves a much more efficient 
supply, but a much less expensive stock might suffice for 
our storehouses at home. 

A Eeport upon the different naval works to which he had 
objected was furnished at the request of the Committee. 
In place of one of them, a mast-pond in Portsmouth yard, 
the expense of which was officially estimated at 189,000/., 
he proposed another work, the cost of which, estimated by 
the same dockyard officer who had made the former esti- 
mate, amounted to no more than 17,725/. This difference 
in cost was obtained by the Inspector-General's skill in the 
arrangement of engineering works ; his mast-pond, not- 
withstanding its lesser cost, provided more abundant and 
more efficient water store room than would have been 
obtained by the plan objected to. This work afforded an 
opportunity of bringing into view two important conside- 
rations habitually neglected in the naval department, as 
indeed in all other departments of government where 
capital is sunk in permanent works. These considerations 
were, first, the amount of the annual money value of benefit 
expected from the use of a work compared to the annual 
interest of the money sunk for its attainment ; and, secondly, 
the loss by unnecessary delay in the execution of a work, 
thereby retarding the period when compensation might be 
expected for the outlay by the use of that work. This mast- 
pond is one amongst many examples of habitual extrava- 
gance in beginning many works at the same time, and car- 
rying them on simultaneously, by little and little, year 
after year. The mast-pond in question, if continued in the 
same manner in which it had already been carried on for 
some years, could not in that mode, by the greatest possible 
expedition, have been completed in less than thirty-one 


years. At the end of that period the cost of the work, as 
it would appear in the books, would have been simply the 
195,495^. ; but during those thirty-one years interest would 
be paid upon the money yearly sunk upon it. He had 
caused a good accountant to calculate how much that 
interest would amount to, taking it at 5 per cent., and 
adding yearly to the sum previously expended that which 
had been disbursed during the year. It appeared from the 
arithmetician's figures that the real cost of the work at the 
end of the thirty-one years, instead of being the simple 
195,495^., would, in fact, have amounted to no less than 
4:58,5681. But this was not the strongest point of view 
in which the example could be seen, for the Inspector- 
Greneral stated that, taking as a standard the rate of progress 
at which the mast-pond had already been going on, it would 
not have been completed in less than 176 years; conse- 
quently, at the period of its completion, the sums expended 
on the work, together with the interest and compound in- 
terest upon them, would have amounted to the enormous 
sum of 132 millions sterling. This statement led (on his 
personal examination, 9th of May) to the question, "Is 
there any account kept of the interest of money expended 
on naval works ?" He replied, "None in the dockyards, nor 
yet, I believe, in any of the public offices ; and I conceive 
great loss arises from want of attention to the subject." 
He further said, " A parallel thus made and habitually 
kept up between the expense in the way of interest and 
the amount (though it were but an ideal one) # of the benefit 
in the way of use, would, in my opinion, be productive of 
very essential advantages to the public service. It would 
serve as a check to the undertaking of works, of which the 
annual use should not seem likely to compensate for the 
annual expense ; it would operate as a spur to the execu- 
tion of each work ; it would serve as a memento to make 
the earliest, as well as the greatest, possible use of the 

K 4 


No apology seems needed for having introduced these 
extracts, for up to this time no attempt has been made to 
keep such accounts as those indicated by the Inspector- 
General ; yet, in respect to the finance of the realm, perhaps 
no other measure would produce so beneficial a result as a 
general attention to the value of the interest of money. 
This disregard in public departments of the interest on 
money sunk is the more remarkable, as it is habitually 
calculated and referred to by our merchants and manu- 
facturers, and the annual financial value of the benefit 
expected from the use of a work, is habitually brought to 
view in all proposals for works to be paid for by public 
companies. And as to the wasteful mode of applying to 
parliament for money by driblets, a little for one work, 
a littl i for another, that never took place in any case, while 
Bentham had to prepare estimates for engineering works. 
He yearly learnt from the First Lord what sum he was 
willing to ask for, and parliament likely to grant ; he then 
selected the works the most required, and ascertained how 
much could be expended on each of them, with due atten- 
tion to economy in carrying them on, and inserted in his 
estimate no other works than those which the specified 
sum would pay for. 

The Inspector-General's report produced extraordinary 
sensation in the Admiralty. The Committee on Finance, 
suspecting that much mismanagement had been going on in 
subordinate boards of the naval department, were desirous 
of bringing it to light in a manner the least obnoxious to the 
superior board, yet such as should promise to produce a 
remedv. The chairman of the Committee, Charles Abbot 
(early in February), concerted, therefore, with General 
Bentham the best means of effecting this purpose, and it 
was arranged between them that the Committee should call 
upon him for " an account of the works in the depart- 
ment of the Inspector-General of Naval Works," arranged 
under certain heads, (which, in fact, Bentham furnished to 


the chairman,) " with any other observations explanatory 
of the above matters." 

This precept, 26th of February 1798, was communi- 
cated to the Admiralty on the 1st of March. The In- 
spector-Greneral immediately employed himself in preparing 
the account required, but without neglecting the current 
business of his office. The amount of time he spent in 
actual mental labour may be conceived from the journal 
of the 4th of March. This journal was not written with 
his own hand, but by one of his family*, to whom he 
related events and conversations ; after the journal was 
written, he daily read it over and corrected it. On 
this 4th of March it is noted: "At work, both B. and 
myself, from seven in the morning till near half-past ten 
at night, with only one hour's intermission, at observations 
preparing for Committee on Finance; and on general 
observations on dockyard officers." The month was spent 
much in the same way. He saw Mr. Abbot occasionally, 
from whom he learnt, on the 28th, that all of the public 
offices were afraid of being examined into ; and on the 
30th, Bentham learnt from Lord Spencer that the " Navy 
Board and the Admiralty were at daggers drawn." On 
the 2nd of April "Mr. Abbot called, looked over and 
corrected letter to the Committee on Finance — thinks the 
Committee will publish the papers : if they should not, 
says B. can publish them himself." On the 3rd measures 
were taken for having fair copies made of the report; 
and on the 4th " B. went to the Admiralty to see Lady 
Spencer ; but she was engaged, and could not receive him." 
In the course of the day he saw Lord Spencer, when other 
business was discussed, but not a syllable passed on the 
subject of the report; Bentham afterwards saw Mr. Abbot, 
and read to him the letter to the Committee. On the 
5th the letter and the report were sent to the Committee, 

* By Lady Bentham. — Ed. 


and a copy of both officially to the secretary of the 

Now came an explosion of wrath. Mr. Nepean on the 
6th sent for the Inspector-General : " told him he thought 
he was reprehensible in sending in the report to the 
Committee." Bentham saw Lord Spencer, who desired 
him to get it back again. He then went to Abbot for 
the report, but was told that he could not have it re- 
turned. Should he go to the secretary for it? "It was 
as much as his place was worth to give it." — " He went 
back and told Lord Spencer that he could not get it." 
Mr. Nepean told him a that he would be reprimanded by 
the Admiralty Board." He replied that he must bear it ; 
he was responsible for everything he did. Lord Spencer 
said, " it was well written ; that he had been up all night 
reading it." 

But the matter was not allowed to rest. Those members 
of the Admiralty Board who wished for no change had 
taken alarm, and on Monday the 8th the Inspector-Greneral 
received an official order, " not to forward the report to 
the Committee until you shall have received their further 
directions." His answer to this was, that having only 
been directed to furnish a copy of it for their Lordships 1 
"information," he had, in obedience to their commands, 
sent the copy required; but the report having been so 
long delayed, he had thought it incumbent on him to 
submit it on the same day to the Committee. However, 
the unexpected sensation which his report had occasioned, 
induced him to call on and consult General Koss re- 
specting his conduct. The General approved of it, and 
informed him that the Board of Ordnance never inter- 
fere in any report made by their inferiors. Other persons 
were also consulted by him, in the presence too of Mr. 
Nepean. Many of these persons objected to some of 
the Inspector-General's proceedings, when Mr. Nepean, 
on being asked what he thought of General Bentham, 


replied that "he was too much for them all." Indeed, 
with the exception of this single transaction, Mr. Nepean 
approved of all the Inspector- General's proceedings. In 
the present case, it would seem that apprehension on the 
part of those who had suffered mismanagement to go on 
unheeded, had for the moment influenced the secretary of 
the Admiralty ; and that the First Lord himself had on 
this occasion been worried into a persuasion that this said 
report was fraught with mischief. 

The Inspector-General waited again on Lord Spencer, 
who announced that a reprimand from the Board would 
be passed. Bentham related what General Eoss had said, 
and suggested that any endeavour of the Board to get it 
back would only render its matter of the more importance. 
His Lordship asked, " Would you like it yourself?" — " No ; 
certainly he should not." — "It was not called for," said 
his Lordship. " If you had given an account of one work 
it would have been sufficient ; nobody gives a more par- 
ticular account than they are absolutely obliged to give." 

A peep behind the scenes is rarely obtained when 
reports to committees of inquiry are being prepared ; but 
what passed on this occasion may well indicate the habit 
of concealment usual in their fabrication. Much vexation 
and momentary difficulty was incurred by the Inspector- 
General by his honest independence ; but he was shortly 
afterwards rewarded by the impression for good which his 
report had made at the Admiralty, and which led to real 
improvement in civil naval management. 

On the 9th he called on Lady Spencer, who said she 
had been too ill to receive him before; that the blame 
about the report was that he had brought it forward just 
when the French were coming. "That was just the 
time," he said, " for producing a sensation, and having 
things altered that required it." General Eoss came in, 
and recommended most urgently forbearance on Lord 
Spencer's part. Bentham repeated his regret at what 


Lord Spencer had suffered, and said that his object in 
having wished to show it to Lady Spencer was, that if she 
should think any expressions in it would be offensive, they 
should be expunged. General Eoss again said that in the 
Ordnance it was made a point of delicacy, not to inter- 
fere even so much as to inquire what the subordinates 
wrote or said. But Bentham was advised for the present 
to keep out of Lord Spencer's way. 

The excitement soon ceased with regard both to Lord 
Spencer and Mr. Nepean ; but as the Board persisted in 
their desire to correct the report, the Inspector-General 
obtained it back again, and on the 30th April enclosed it 
to the secretary. On the 8th of May it was returned with 
certain corrections made in it, and their Lordships signi- 
fied their desire that it should be returned to the Com- 
mittee as corrected. 

The original copy of the report sent on the 5th April 
to the Committee, has been examined ; and the corrections 
made by the Admiralty are marked in red ink. They are 
confined to two instances ; the one relating to the steam- 
engine and machinery in Portsmouth dockyard, which had 
been stated not to have been determined on, but for which 
their Lordships' orders had just been given, and a correction 
was made accordingly. The other correction was the ex- 
punging two paragraphs, in which observations had been 
made as to the superfluous expense that was habitually 
incurred by uneconomical practices in the construction of 
vessels ; but the statement was allowed to remain, of the 
comparative saving that would result from the mode of 
construction exemplified in his experimental vessels. It 
may be observed that it was probably exposure of de- 
ficiencies in naval construction that rendered the Navy 
Board and their supporters so very sore. But in regard 
to the report itself, the correction of it by the Admiralty 
rendered what had been before but the opinion of a 
single man, an official document, and sanctioned its state- 


ments throughout, by the highest naval authority in the 

The report so corrected was returned to the Committee, 
who did not fail to avail themselves on the same day 
of the high sanction which it had obtained, for the In- 
spector-General was examined, and the first question put 
to him was, " Are the reports delivered in by you respect- 
ing naval works presented with permission of the Board of 
Admiralty ? " — " They are, having been submitted to the 
Admiralty Board." 

By a further precept of the Committee on Finance, 
Bentham was directed to report on works proposed by him 
for Plymouth dockyard, and of such others as he might 
have objected to. Large sums had been expended on that 
dockyard, but magnificence had, unfortunately, been more 
considered than utility. His proposals for Plymouth, 
therefore, were principally confined to rendering those 
works of increased use, or more appropriate to the service 
for which they were designed. He objected to the pro- 
posed landing-place, as being inadequate to the accommo- 
dation of a sufficient number of boats, and because, in 
common with all the landing-places in Plymouth yard, 
boats could not approach them at low water, but planned 
instead, a boat harbour, where boats might always lie 
afloat, and where landing and embar cation could be ef- 
fected at all times of tide. Many storehouses had been 
built for grandeur of appearance, so that each floor was of 
double the height that could be employed as store room ; 
for these, he proposed the insertion of intermediate floors : 
thus these houses were made to receive conveniently 
double the former quantity of stores. These and many 
other alterations may- appear insignificant, nor would they 
be mentioned, were it not to show how little attention had 
been paid to usefulness, as though magnificence were of 
more importance in a royal dockyard than convenience. 
It must not be supposed that he disregarded appear- 


ance ; for though he looked on this consideration as 
secondary to that of use, his subsequent proposals testify 
his anxiety to avail himself of architectural skill and 

By a precept of the 17th of April he was ordered to 
" state his opinion upon the expediency of abolishing the 
practice of chips in his Majesty's dockyards, and the 
orounds of such opinion." This order had originated in 
a suggestion of the Inspector-General's to the chairman 
of the Committee. His well-known intimate knowledge 
of what was the real practice in the management of the 
civil concerns of the navy, had led to consultation with 
him as to what would be the least obnoxious mode of 
bringing abuses and mismanagement to view, and of 
laying a foundation, on which effectual reform might be 
instituted by the Admiralty ; and it will be seen that that 
Board availed itself, during two successive administrations, 
of the preparatory step thus taken. The abuses consequent 
on the allowance of chips to workmen had been noticed 
previously to the appointment of this Committee, yet no 
administration had had the hardihood to abolish the prac- 
tice — indeed, no means had yet been devised of effecting 
this desirable reform, so as not to excite the animosity 
of the workmen. The Inspector-General had ascertained 
that the abuses arising from this privilege, much ex- 
ceeded even his worst expectations ; and wheu he had, 
in private with the chairman, informed him of a variety 
of particulars on the subject, the precept was issued, and 
he devised a remedy. 

Notorious as was this abuse, the Inspector-General 
would not, however, have hazarded an opinion without the 
most positive proof. He had, therefore, during a late 
visit to Portsmouth yard, taken up his abode close to 
the dockyard gates, where, without its being noticed by 
the artificers, he could see the bundles of chips brought 
out, and many of them opened for sale in a kind of 


market, held below his windows. As it was winter, 
he professed to like an addition of wood to his coal fire. 
In this way bundles were frequently obtained, which, 
on putting the pieces together, showed that a whole 
deal had been cut up to reduce it to the greatest length 
allowed, three feet; or, perhaps, even still more valuable 
oak planks or oak timber had been thus cut up. This 
practice of allowing chips had its influence on the con- 
struction of second-rate houses in Portsea and its vicinity ; 
stairs were just under three feet wide ; doors, shutters, cup- 
boards, and so forth, were formed of wood in pieces just 
under three feet long. He stated to the Committee, " I 
am very decidedly of opinion that it is highly expedient that 
the practice of carrying out of the dockyards any article 
whatsoever, under the denomination of chips, should be 
abolished." He observed that a superior degree of vigilance 
on the part of the officers might sometimes check these 
abuses ; but that it was his decided opinion that whilst 
chips of any description were allowed, no such vigilance 
could be depended on. It was only mastermen and fore- 
men who had opportunities of judging of the lawfulness 
of the way in which chips were made ; and these officers 
living amono 1 the artificers dared not enforce regulations 
which would bring upon them the resentment of hundreds, 
and instanced the danger to which such officers would be 
exposed by an example lately afforded. " An officer of this 
description, who, having an extraordinary degree of zeal 
for the public service and a superior sense of his duty, 
was led to check in some degree these abuses, and rendered 
himself so evidently an object of resentment to the ar- 
tificers, that it was thought necessary for his personal 
security, that he should for some time be guarded on his 
way to and from the dockyard." 

From this time the Inspector-General came to be con- 
sidered not only as the naval architect, the civil engineer, 
the naval military engineer, but, further, in the still 


more important light of the reformer of abuses, and the 
deviser of a new system of management grounded on sure 
principles ; that is, on those principles which have insured 
success in the great manufacturing and commercial 
concerns of private men, and which have at the same time 
contributed so effectually to the enrichment and prosperity 
of the nation. 

It has been seen that the Inspector-General had repre- 
sented the need of better management of the timber depart- 
ment to the Committee on Finance, and that evidence was 
officially before the Board of Admiralty. In addition to this 
he had often represented to Lord Spencer the great improvi- 
dence and waste that was habitual in regard to this costly 
store ; but particular facts, such as could be presented to 
his Lordship, were wanting, till in June 1798 the late Sir 
Henry Peake, then second assistant in Portsmouth yard, 
furnished convincing examples of bad conversion. He sent 
drawings to the Inspector-Greneral of some of the most ruin- 
ous instances. These were not confined to the loss, by waste 
of substance, in cutting up large timber to a small piece, 
or to waste of money, in cutting up high-priced timber for 
purposes where less costly pieces were equally appropriate ; 
but it was further most mischievous, because it was the de- 
struction of timber of a size, of a quality, of a form rarely 
to be obtained, although essential in the construction of 
large ships. 

Extreme application to business in general, increased as 
it was by the necessity of replying to the continual objec- 
tions made to all his plans of improvement, brought upon 
Bentham a severe illness, so that he was under the necessity 
of retiring for a month from all official duty. This was 
the only occasion during his service of seventeen years 
that he ever allowed any illness to withdraw his attention 
from the business of his office. When unable to leave 
the house, he worked at home ; when confined even to his 
bed, still he received his assistants. On this occasion 


he retired to a secluded farmhouse at Fairlight, near 

The farm happened to be close to a ravine, and to a creek 
of the sea where much smuggling was habitually carried on. 
By personal observations made at this time, he convinced 
himself of the facility with which small vessels came into 
the creek at their pleasure, landed their cargoes, and went 
out again, unanno} r ed by the armed vessels on the coast. 
The smugglers drew very little water ; the armed vessels 
employed against them were of deep draught, and con- 
sequently could not approach the shore, — an example 
proving how well grounded was his opinion, that large 
vessels alone are not to be depended on for service on our 
shallow coasts. 



Dock Entrances at Portsmouth — New South Dock for Ships of the Line — 
Choice of Stone in building — Mast Ponds — Reservoirs for Clearing 
Docks — Treatment of his Experimental Vessels — Floating Dam — 
Steam Engine and Pumps — A Russian Fleet at Spithead — Interviews 
with the Officers — Daily Occupations — Character of Dockyard "Work- 
men — Steam Dredging Machine — Enlargement of Marine Barracks at 
Chatham — Artesian Well — Deptford Dockyard — Sheerness — Proposals 
for a Dockyard at the Isle of Grain — Improved Copper Sheathing — 
Success of the Experimental Vessels — Principle of Non-recoil in mount- 
ing Guns — Engagement between the Millbrook and the French Frigate 
Bellone, and between the Dart and the Desiree. 

When General Bentham returned to duty, the works at 
Portsmouth called for his first attention. It had been pro- 
posed that the entrance to the basin, its apron, gates, &c, 
should be constructed as those to other basins and docks 
usually are. But the enormous expense attending such 
works, and their inconvenience when executed, induced him 
to propose that the entrance should be of masonry, the lower 
part in the form of an inverted arch, which, with its sides, 
should form a groove. By these means he avoided the ex- 
pense of the immense number of piles usually employed to 
tie down the apron or bottom when it is made of wood, as 
all entrances had been hitherto. In closing the entrance, 
instead of the usual gates, he contrived a holloiv float- 
ing dam, which, when across the entrance, should tit, 
watertight, into the groove in the masonry, the heel, 
as it might be called, of the dam to press against one 
or the other of the sides of the groove, according as the 
water might be to be kept in or out of the basin. The 


interior of the dam was provided with valves, so that water 
for sinking it could be admitted by them, or run out of it 
at pleasure, without the need of pumping. 

LTp to that time docks and basins had prevented traffic 
across their entrances, excepting for foot passengers. In- 
stead of the slight bridge used for that purpose, he con- 
trived one supported by the floating dam, over which 
the heaviest loaded carriages might pass ; an accommodation 
particularly desirable in this part of the yard, where weighty 
loads were frequently required to be conveyed from one side 
of the basin to the other. This strong bridge formed a 
part of the dam itself, so as to be floated away and brought 
back again together ; thus, as soon as the dam could be 
replaced, the communication between the opposite piers 
would be effected. 

The perfect success of this work at Portsmouth furnished 
a happy example to private engineers ; both inverted arch 
and floating dam were shortly afterwards copied by them, 
and have become of very general use. The floating dam has 
indeed been newly named, and called a caissoon, and thus 
the inventor of it is lost sight of ; but this is by no means 
the only instance in which General Bentham's inventions 
have been adopted by others, and the credit of them 
given to his imitators instead of to himself. The original 
floating dam, or caissoon, at Portsmouth, though of wood, 
lasted for the long term of forty-four years, having received 
during the time no repair of any consequence. The 
inverted arch of masonry still remains perfect, and has 
completely answered its intended purpose. 

His drawings for the new south dock in the basin at 
Portsmouth were not submitted to the Admiralty till the 
9th of August 1799. This delay had been occasioned by 
his perception of many inconveniences in existing docks, 
especially in regard to the shoring of ships ; that is, the 
affording them support when in dock, by shores carried 
from the steps or altars at the sides of the dock. He had 

L 2 


bestowed much time in investigating the form best adapted 
for this business. But there was another and a more 
important novelty in his plan ; it was the increasing the 
depth of the dock sufficiently to admit a ship of the 
deepest draught of water that could come into the harbour, 
and the making the dock capable of receiving such a ship 
with all in. 

The taking a ship of the line into dock with all in, 
that is, with her armament and all her stores (excepting 
powder) on board, with her masts and rigging also as she 
came in from sea, was an operation too daring in appear- 
ance even for him to propose without previous preparation. 
He had accordingly, early in the preceding year, obtained 
an official inquiry from the Admiralty to Captain Grore, 
as to whether he had ever witnessed such a practice. 
The Captain stated officially in reply, that he had, at the 
Caraccas, seen a ship of the line taken into dock with all 
in. The Inspector- General had in his evidence to the 
Committee on Finance stated this fact, and that a similar 
practice in our own dockyards was habitual in regard to 

The importance of such an innovation may not at first 
sight seem so great as in effect it really was. Ships were, 
and still often are, taken into dock merely to examine the 
state of the bottom, sometimes without anything being- 
found amiss, frequently requiring nothing more than to 
scrub off weeds and filth, or to replace a sheet or two of 
sheathing, the work of perhaps only a few hours. But 
the clearing a ship of the line of her stores to lighten her, 
as was then the constant practice before taking her into 
dock, was work for all her crew for perhaps five or six 
days. If that crew consisted of but 700 men, and their 
cost in Wages and provisions at no more than two shillings a 
day, this for five days, and for five more to put the stores on 
board again, would together amount to no less a sum than 
7001. In dismantling a ship, too, the loss on the stores 


themselves, partly by embezzlement, partly by destruction 
or deterioration, amounts to a very considerable sum of 
money — and, above all, in time of war, there is the loss, 
often an incalculable one, attendaut on keeping a ship 
from service. 

The kind of stone designed for the proposed dock was 
Purbeck,as being much cheaper than the Portland stone, the 
only kind till then used ; but for the parts of the work most 
liable to injury, he introduced Scotch granite. This and the 
rest of his masonry works afforded the first instance where, 
in this or any other naval arsenal, attention had been paid to 
the kind of stone employed. By the substitution of Purbeck 
stone at Portsmouth for that of Portland, the actual saving 
on each dock amounted to no less a sum than 15,000/. So 
at Plymouth the savings made at his suggestion were very 
considerable, by employing the marble of the country in- 
stead of Purbeck paving, and the granite of the place 
in lieu of Portland stone. His greatest innovation was 
his proposal that its bottom " should be formed by masonry 
alone, in the form of an inverted arch, without the use of 
any piles or woodwork." In this instance the Navy Board 
attempted to quash the plan by private means. When 
these were found unsuccessful, the Navy Board officially 
objected to the inverted arch, and the Inspector-General 
was called upon to give his reasons for introducing it. 
They proved satisfactory, and the work was executed accord- 
ing to his proposal. 

He also proposed the converting the north camber and 
boat-pond in Portsmouth yard into two docks and a basin 
for frigates. This was also objected to by the Navy Board, 
but to no purpose. By the increased facilities thus pro- 
vided, two docks and a basin for frigates were obtained at 
an expense of less than 10,000/. Similar accommodations 
could not otherwise have been obtained for less than 
70,000/. or 80,000/. 

It has already appeared that he had objected to the 

L 3 


plans of a new mast-pond in progress of construction when 
lie first visited Portsmouth yard, and that he had proposed 
by another plan to provide for the storing of the required 
quantity of mast logs. Objections, as usual, were made to 
this proposal. In preparing to reply to them, he became 
convinced that the stowage room intended by the Board 
was nowise proportioned to the different quantities and 
lengths of the logs really received. In order to proceed 
on sure grounds, he obtained quarterly accounts of the 
receipt and expenditure of mast timber. It was a labo- 
rious task to himself and his assistants to anal}\se and 
make out in a tabular form the quantities of each descrip- 
tion of such timber that had actually been received and 
consumed each quarter ; yet, without knowing the quan- 
tity of store to be provided for, it would not have been pos- 
sible to decide what provision of stowage room might be 

He had perceived, in regard to what is called the esta- 
blishment of stores (that is, the quantities to be kept alwa} r s 
in store), that an essential point of consideration had been 
disregarded, namely the time requisite for obtaining a 
fresh supply, a point necessary to be taken into account 
in providing stowage room for the average consumption. 
The Navy Board, in their remonstrances against his plan, 
had stated that by theirs ample provision had been made, 
which would not be the case with his. 

In order to ascertain this point, he classed the different 
sorts of mast timber according to the consumption and to the 
time required for obtaining a supply in the case of each sort ; 
he then multiplied its annual consumption by the number 
of years required to obtain the supply, and this he con- 
sidered as the proper quantity for which stowage room 
should be provided. This point, it may be observed, is not 
considered in the establishment for stores in general, or 
for any species of store in particular. Mast timber is kept in 
mast-ponds by constructing round an excavation a number of 


walled partitions, which are themselves divided horizontally 
by wooden beams of sufficient strength to keep down a 
range of mast timber below them, the timber being floated 
in or out from the middle of the excavation when filled 
with water; and the spaces between the partitions are 
termed mast-locks, He found, reckoning the stowage 
room by inches of diameter of wood, that by the Navy 
Board's ample plan no more than 18,174 inches could be 
stowed in both the old and the new ponds together, whereas 
the stock to be provided for, merely the stock on hand in 
the year 1797, amounted to 76,040 inches, more than four 
times the quantity which the Board had provided. By his 
first plan 34,806 inches would have been stowed, nearly 
double the Navy Board's quantity ; but now, in consequence 
of his examination of documents, he found it necessary to 
make additions to his locks, so that they might contain 
61,284 inches of mast timber. 

When, at a visitation of this yard by the Lords of the 
Admiralty in 1802, the subject of the mast-pond was dis- 
cussed on the spot, every possible objection to the Inspector- 
Greneral's plan was brought forward, but the advantages of 
it were seen to be so prominent, that their Lordships de- 
termined on its adoption. For some reason, however, 
which never came to light, its execution was delayed ; but 
the cause of its non-execution was surmised to be the Re- 
sident Commissioner's apprehension that the mastery would 
approach too near to his splendid official residence ; these 
fears were groundless. But this impediment to useful 
improvements by the placing of officers' houses within a 
dockyard, is not the greatest mischief that has arisen from 
this practice. 

The Inspector-General's experimental vessels had now 
(1802) been some of them between three and four years 
at sea, so that their qualities in actual service by this 
time might be judged of. The prejudice and opposi- 
tion in regard to his engineering works, great as it was, 

L 4 


was still far exceeded by that shown towards his vessels. 
The dockyard shipwright officers of Portsmouth yard spoke 
of them openly to naval officers and seamen with the 
greatest contempt, and reported on them to the Navy 
Board most injuriously. These vessels had all along been 
treated with unprecedented neglect ; insomuch that on 
various occasions their commanders had been compelled to 
make complaint to the Navy Board. It may be con- 
cluded that the Inspector-General could not let such 
proceedings pass unnoticed. Frequently he was under the 
necessity of informing Lord Spencer of real circumstances, 
very different from those adversely represented — sometimes 
verbally with facts, often by letter, still more frequently 
by communicating private letters from the several com- 
manders, or from other persons, on the subject of these 
vessels. At length, 9th August 1798, he found it neces- 
sary to state officially the neglect of the first assistant of 
Portsmouth yard. 

This statement was made on the occasion of the return 
into port of the Eling, on account of leaks. The depre- 
ciating manner in which the experimental vessels were 
spoken of by the dockyard officers had so prejudicial an 
effect upou the crews, that the appearance of the smallest 
quantity of water in them, such as would not excite atten- 
tion in other ships, was sufficient in the case of these to 
place their commanders under a moral obligation to return 
into port. This same schooner had on a previous occasion 
been returned from attendance on the Sans Pareil on account 
of a leak, a foot above water, and the dockyard officers 
laid her by as exhibiting signs of weakness in her con- 
struction, such as to afford grounds for the condemnation 
of all the vessels similarly constructed. This opinion was 
said, in the dockyard report, to be pronounced in conse- 
quence of an examination made by the first assistant. 
An official inquiry was, therefore, made by Admiralty 
order, when it turned out that neither the first assistant 


nor any other of the officers usually employed in such 
surveys had ever been on board the Eling. The report 
had farther stated that it would be necessary to take her 
into dock to repair the leak. It was, however, afterwards 
easily stopped whilst afloat — not by dockyard artificers, 
but by the carpenter of the Arrow. The schooner then 
went on a cruise to Marcon. On another occasion, when 
the Eling was in port to be fitted with carronades, it again 
became the duty of the first assistant to superintend the 
fittings. " This superintendence he performed in the same 
way as the former one — he never went on board her" In 
doing the work consequent on fitting the carronades, some 
scuppers forward were observed to be fitting in a manner 
never permitted in other vessels, and which must evi- 
dently occasion leaks. This was pointed out to those 
who were doing the work, but the admonition was disre- 
garded ; the scuppers thus improperly fitted did occasion 
leaks ; and it was on account of a leak so caused, that the 
Eling had now returned to Spithead. 

Leaks on board some of the other vessels were, on exami- 
nation, found to have been occasioned by circumstances 
totally irrelevant to their mode of structure, and it was more 
than suspected that the leaks were purposely caused, to "dish 
the vessels," as a sailor was heard to declare was his inten- 
tion, in regard to the cooking apparatus of the Arrow. As 
to leaks in the Dart, Captain (the late Admiral) Eagget, 
in November 1798, said in a private letter: "Something 
like a survey has commenced, and I believe will throw a 
new light upon the subject. A bolt hole has been dis- 
covered open in our bottom, and a treenail one under the 
filling forward on the starboard side." 

These returns to port on account of trifling leaks were 
particularly vexatious, as they were continually represented 
as proofs of the weakness of these vessels ; and many were 
the attempts made to influence Lord Spencer, and bring 
on a condemnation of them. The expense incurred by 


petty repairs was also much insisted on; it was rendered 
considerable by the neglect of dockyard officers, for when 
anything was required for the vessel, the work was left to 
the workmen uncontrolled, and uninspected by any of the 
officers. The Inspector-General, convinced of the strength 
of these vessels and of their other good properties, con- 
tented himself for the present with exhibiting to their 
Lordships from time to time the conduct of the dockyard 
officers, and to Lord Spencer such well-authenticated par- 
ticulars as might induce him to employ them in the most 
exposed and active service, feeling sure from experience 
that the more severe the trials, the greater would their 
superiority be found to be. 

Lord Spencer, having determined on a reform in the 
management of the dockyards, and having charged the 
Inspector-General with the business of preparing funda- 
mental regulations, as to the management of timber in 
particular, began by requesting, on the 5th of June, to 
be furnished with accounts of the receipt and expenditure 
of timber for a year. They were accordingly sent in 
forthwith. From this time he employed every spare hour 
in an investigation of the mischiefs and inconveniences of 
the actual system. He entered into numberless minutiae 
of practice as existing at the most important of our ports, 
Portsmouth, and where of all the ports the practice was 
least objectionable. The labour was the greater as he 
would not take information upon trust. He repeatedly 
attended the musters to witness himself how easily now, as 
when he himself was apprentice at Chatham, the absence of 
a man might be overlooked, both unwittingly or often 
wilfully, by the muster clerk. By similar means he con- 
vinced himself of actual facts on a great variety of details, 
before he ventured to devise a remedy. 

On the 6th May 1799, he stated that he thought it 
highly expedient the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty 
should witness the effects produced on copper sheathing 


by the working of a ship at sea, as affording proof of the 
imperfections, in regard to strength, of the mode of con- 
struction now made use of in the structure of ships in 
general. He therefore had obtained some sheets of copper 
from the Tamar frigate, which had been taken off with 
particular care, so as not to increase the rents or puck- 
ering: of them. Considerable as these rents and that 
puckering were in these sheets, they were far from being 
the worst, many of the sheets on this vessel having been 
rent to such a degree, that they could only be removed 
in fragments. He also stated other tokens of weakness of 
this vessel, and made a deep impression on their Lordships 
which tended in no small degree to confirm them in the 
opinion, that a new system of management would be the 
only effectual remedy for this, as for other existing 

In the spring of this year (1799), the steam engine and 
the pumps worked by it were put to use with all the 
success which the Inspector-Greneral had anticipated in 
planning them. On the 7th of June Lord Hugh Seymour 
accompanied him to witness this novelty. To the surprise 
of all, the piston rod of the pump broke whilst at work. 
The millwright who had charge of this machinery found a 
broken copper nail in the packing of the pump piston, a 
score in the upper rim of which proved that the nail had 
passed down into the packing from above; the master 
blacksmith, a working blacksmith, and all others present, 
attributed the breaking of the rod to this nail. This was 
one of those malicious attempts made from time to time, 
to injure and bring into disrepute the Inspector-Greneral's 
plans of every kind. It had been said by all, including 
the Navy Board, and perhaps some members of the Superior 
Board itself, that the introduction of a steam engine would 
cause risings of the workmen. A very humble set of them 
ceased to be employed at the pumps when this steam engine 
was put to work --the drivers who had hitherto guided 


the horses when pumping the reservoir. These men 
considered it an irksome business, and so far from rising, 
to express their joy on being rid of it, they clubbed to- 
gether, and had a supper on the day the engine was first put 
to work. Bentham was in fact never regardless of injury 
that might be done to any workman by the adoption of 
his plans; thus on the 19th he found means by which the 
keeper of the old pumps could be properly compensated 
for the loss of his extra pay. The treenail mooters and 
sawyers had expected to suffer from the introduction of ma- 
chinery, and had lately applied to him respecting their 
fears, and so well were they satisfied with bis assurance 
that no one should be a personal sufferer by any of his 
proposals, that a murmur amongst them was no longer 
heard. Their entire reliance on his promises was highly 
gratifying, the more so as it was never by gratuities of any 
kind that he acquired and preserved the good will of the 

A pleasurable event of another nature occurred this 
month. A Eussian fleet being at the port, the admiral and 
other superior officers of it waited on him, in token, they 
said, of the high estimation in which he was held in their 
country in remembrance of his naval and other services. 
He had frequent intercourse with these officers on shore; 
and when he went on the 9th to return the admiral's visit 
at Spithead, not only the more usual honour awaited him 
of blowing trumpets on board ship as soon as a visitor is 
in sight, but he was received on board with every honour 
shown to the most distinguished guests — the guard turned 
out, drums beating, and so forth. He on his side wore the 
military cross of St. George on the occasion, and his 
sword of honour given by the Empress for his achieve- 
ments in the Liman. 

Convinced that the imperfections of numberless works 
had resulted far more from a want of acquaintance with 
minute details, than from any want of skill in the pro- 


jector, the Inspector-General thought it incumbent on him 
to pass much of his time at the naval ports, particularly at 
Portsmouth, where, during the struggles of war, more real 
business was done in the outfit and repairs of our fleets, 
than was perhaps effected in all the other ports together ; 
but with the rare exception of a half-holiday upon such an 
extraordinary occasion as his visit to the Eussian admiral, 
his whole time was occupied in business. One or two of 
his assistants were usually lodged in his house. The early 
morning's walk was in the Arsenal. From breakfast to 
rather an early dinner hour, was generally devoted to con- 
sideration of his own plans and projects. In respect to 
each of them his habit was first to note the desiderata, 
then the various means by which they might be attained, 
comparing one mode with the other as to their respective 
advantages and disadvantages, not forgetting first cost, and 
whether the benefit to be derived would pay a fair interest 
for the money sunk upon the work. His official letters 
were also prepared at this time, all of them by himself, 
as no one in his office could be depended upon for even the 
commonest note — his secretary, so called, being in fact his 
assistant in naval construction. As his official communi- 
cations were all in writing, no small portion of his time 
was requisite for this business, more especially as, with rare 
exceptions, he had to answer and refute the objections 
habitually made to his proposals. During meal times con- 
versation with his assistants turned on the business which 
was immediately the subject of investigation. A some- 
what hasty dinner over, a walk to the dockyard or other 
naval establishment followed, to obtain information from 
officers, to search books, or to consult those who were to 
clear up any doubtful- question, — artificer, labourer, pilot, 
dredger, admirals, captains, ship carpenter, no matter what 
description of person, so that their intelligence and truth- 
fulness enabled him to gain from them information that 
might be depended on. He was usually accompanied in 


his walk home by some officer, and after tea there was 
generally an assemblage of some two or three persons to 
discuss mechanical subjects principally ; or in fine weather 
a walk was often taken, to see the effects of a remarkably 
high or low tide perhaps, or to take note of the haunts 
and habits of dockyard men when the day's work was 

At this time an example is noted of the delays to which 
ships were so frequently subjected at Portsmouth, and 
which the works proposed by Bentham, and then in course 
of execution, were designed to obviate. The Coromandel 
and the Impregnable, both of them ships of the line, were 
lying, their works completed, one in the south, the other 
in the north dock, incapable for want of depth of water 
of being undocked till the next spring tides, and if they 
should happen then to be low, these ships might even 
have had to wait for the spring tides next following. 

During his stay at Portsmouth, in the year 1800, he in- 
vestigated a great variety of subjects respecting which he 
had improvements in view, and the year was fruitful in 
proposals, many of which have led to immense results, to 
the advantage of the public at large, no less than to that 
of naval arsenals. It was in the early part of this year 
that he proposed the steam dredging machine, an invention 
that has been imitated and generally adopted by the public, 
and which has proved as efficacious and important as he 
foresaw it would become. His proposal of this apparatus, 
which was calculated to raise 1000 tons of soil a day, was 
dated 16th April 1800. 

This proposal, with the detailed drawings of the appa- 
ratus and an estimate of the cost, having been sent as 
usual to the Navy Board for their observations, was there 
canvassed ; and at length the machine was ordered to be 
constructed. It was completed and at work for trial on 
the 6th March 1802, and at regular work in Portsmouth 
Harbour on the 3rd April of the same year. 


The dates of this invention are particularly specified, 
because lately the invention of the dredging machine has 
by some one been attributed to an engineer in private 
practice, whose eminence in his profession rendered it need- 
less to ascribe to him works not his own ; but Sir Samuel's 
machine was proposed two years before the first mention of 
such a machine to the Hull Dock Company, in the year 1802, 
by that engineer, and it was at work in Portsmouth dock- 
yard two years before a steam engine was applied at Hull to 
an old existing machine of a different construction. It was 
not till some years afterwards that a dredging machine of 
nearly similar construction to Sir Samuel's was used in 
private works ; and it is not impossible but that the draw- 
ings of his machine might have been seen by that engi- 
neer, since copies of them were sent, on the 25th April 
1801, to the Chairman of the Committee for the Improve- 
ment of the Port of London, who had called on him for his 
opinion respecting the new bridge. 

The machine in question consisted of a chain of iron 
buckets worked by a steam engine. The boiler of the 
steam engine was made of wood instead of metal, the fire- 
place and flues only being of iron, and all of them sur- 
rounded with water. This wooden boiler lasted twenty 
years, having during that period been once new topped. 
A similar boiler for the second dredging machine lasted 
only six years, the former one having been made in Ports- 
mouth dockyard, the other by contract. 

When one of Sir Samuel's dredging machines, at a later 
period, was working off Sheerness to depths frequently of 
twenty -eight feet, he was desirous of ascertaining the exact 
cost of digging and raising soil. It appeared from the 
details of daily expenditure, joined to an ample percentage 
allowed for capital sunk and for wear and tear of the appa- 
ratus, that the expense for raising soil was less than one 
penny per ton. 

On the 8th April he submitted a plan for the enlarge- 


ment of the Marine Barracks at Chatham, which was 
approved ; but when he proposed a draught of form of con- 
tract for the works, the Navy Board applied for a statement 
of the quantities of materials of each description required. 
This led to a letter from him, in which he observed in the 
first place that the drawings were such as to afford suffi- 
cient information, and stated, as his reason for not giving 
those particulars, his desire to ascertain by comparison 
which of the tenders would on the whole be the most ad- 
vantageous. Amongst the many fraudulent practices in 
making tenders for works to be done by contract, was that 
of setting down at low prices those articles of which the 
quantities required were small, and at high prices those 
articles of which the quantities required would be great. 
The practice at the Navy Board was to add the prices to- 
gether of the several items, without regard to quantity, 
and to accept the lowest as it appeared by an average 
thus made. But by this contrivance of contractors, a 
tender often on the face of it appeared the lowest, 
although perhaps upon the whole contract that lowest- 
looking one might in fact be the most exorbitant. His 
perseverance did effect a salutary reform in this respect as 
to architectural works ; but as to contracts generally, his 
endeavours to the last were ineffectual to the crushing of 
this hydra-headed monster. 

Impressed with the insufficiency of our naval arsenals on 
the eastern coast, and with the extravagance of keeping 
up petty establishments, such as that of the dock}^ard at 
Deptford, he, as early as August 1799, suggested to Lord 
Spencer the giving up of that dockyard, and of providing 
a new system of naval establishments " somewhere north of 
the Forelands," and on further consideration of the subject, 
he addressed a letter to the Admiralty, 19th April 1800, 
in which he submitted various circumstances showing the 
expediency of gradually forming a naval arsenal on the 
Isle of Grain. 


The discussions which have of late taken place respecting 
the abandonment at one time of Deptford yard, and the 
subsequent re-establishment of a staff of officers there, may 
render the Inspector-Greneral's letter the more interesting, 
since it exhibits grounds on which an opinion may be 
formed respecting our eastern dockyards, more precise 
than any others which have as yet been brought forward 
on the subject. He said that: "With regard to the dock- 
yards of Deptford, Woolwich, and Chatham, — considering 
their great distance from the sea, the unavoidable diffi- 
culties and delays attending the navigation of the rivers 
in which they are situated, the want of a sufficient depth of 
water for ships of war when in a state fit for sea, and the 
want of all accommodations for ships to fit within the 
precincts of either of those dockyards, — it has appeared 
to me that however preat might be the sum which might 
be appropriated to their improvement, still the sending a 
ship from sea in time of war to either of those yards for 
the purpose of refitting or repair, must occasion a much 
greater expense for the performing a given quantity of 
work, than if it could have been done at an outport ; and 
this, independently of the much greater inefficient expense 
attending the maintenance of the crews and the wear and 
tear of the ship during the time it would be thus excluded 
from the possibility of performing any actual service. 
The consideration of these circumstances, as well as of 
others of the same tendency, has convinced me that it 
would be far more economical to increase the present 
establishments at the outports, or to form some new ones 
where ships might be refitted with all the despatch that 
the nature of the work admits of, than to continue to incur 
the very heavy expense which necessarily attends the em- 
ploying inland dockyards for the general purposes to 
which they are at present applied." 

In respect to Sheerness, he stated that although the 
harbour had a sufficient depth of water, and that the situ- 



ation was well suited to the supply and repairs of fleets 
destined for service in the north seas, or for the protection 
of the metropolis, yet the dockyard laboured under great 
and some of them irremediable disadvantages ; such as that 
" the confined plan, on which that yard was first established, 
has occasioned an arrangement of the docks and buildings 
very ill adapted to coincide with any regular system of 
accommodations on a more extensive scale." 

He then stated that a situation having been long ago 
pointed out to him as eligible for a dockyard on the Isle 
of Grain, he made it his particular business to examine the 
island itself, and to acquire all the information respect- 
ing it which it was in his power to obtain at Sheerness. 

The superior advantages which a naval establishment in 
such a situation would have over the dockyards of Chatham, 
Woolwich, and Deptford, rendered it advisable, he said, 
that no more money should be spent on those dockyards 
except with a view to the particular services to which they 
would be in future appropriated ; namely, the building of 
new ships, and giving thorough repairs to old ones, with 
the exception, however, of small vessels, cutters, schooners, 
&c. In regard to Deptford, the least inconvenient of any 
yard, he thought it might be expedient to give a part of it 
for affording additional accommodation to the victualling 
establishment adjoining. 

Although it might hereafter, he said, be found expedient 
to increase the new naval establishment to perhaps a 
greater extent than that of any of those already formed, 
it did not seem necessary to begin on all the points of so 
extensive a plan at once. He would rather propose the 
completing first for use, so as to accord with the general 
plan, a single dock capable of receiving the largest ship 
at the greatest depth of water, looking upon this esta- 
blishment as an appendage to Sheerness ; but as that 
port, already much out of repair, became less and less fit 
for use, the works in Grain might be extended until it 


should eventually supersede the port of Sheerness. Earl 
Spencer, with whom the need of a naval arsenal north of 
the Forelands had been discussed in the preceding year, 
remained but a few months in office after this proposal was 
made. The Earl of St. Vincent, who succeeded him as 
First Lord of the Admiralty, considered it as highly de- 
sirable, and in his visitation of the naval arsenals in 1802, 
he himself examined with great attention the part of the 
Isle of Grain which had been pointed out. 

Sir Samuel, in consequence, received orders to have the 
ground examined. It turned out that the ground, though 
on a good subsoil, was soft to a considerable depth. This 
rendered it advisable that the first work should be a part 
of the proposed canal, and that the basin should be formed. 
The expense to be thus incurred was greater than his lord- 
ship was disposed to encounter, at that moment of war and 
financial pressure. But what in fact operated the most 
powerfully against the immediate adoption of the plan, was 
the unfortunate loss of a valuable officer, Mr. Bunce, archi- 
tect in the Inspector-G-eneraPs office. This gentleman, 
already worn out with fatigue from his excessive labours 
during the visitation of the dockyards, had, in the excess 
of his zeal, undertaken the surveys and borings of the 
Isle of Grain, aud was seized with fever and died. This 
sad event threw a damp on the proceedings, and was held 
up by adversaries as proof of the unhealthiness of the 
island, which, though marshy, is certainly not so objection- 
able as Sheerness. 

In addition to these difficulties Sir Samuel Bentham 
continued to suffer much vexation from the prejudice 
against his experimental vessels, but by degrees their 
good qualities had manifested themselves as regarded 
their strength of structure, their properties as sea boats, 
and their efficiency in armament. Their form has been 
in many respects copied by subsequent naval architects, 
as also have many of the modes of structure with a 

M 2 


view to strength, but the prejudice against their peculiar 
mode of armament still remains. An extract from a letter 
of Earl Spencer on the subject of the Dart, may be accept- 
able to the general reader as an example of the interest 
which he took in the result of this shipbuilding experi- 
ment, and of the intimate knowledge of details which he 
acquired in the service over which he presided. 

" Admiralty, 2$th November 1790. 
" Dear Sir, — The Report of the state of the Dart is very satis- 
factory, more especially as she ran foul of two ships on her way 
home, and in running foul of the Vestal frigate the shock was so 
great that the people on board the Vestal (not seeing anything of 
the Dart afterwards) concluded she must have gone down ; one 
of the Dart's men got on board the Vestal at the time. 

" Yours very sincerely, 

" Spencer." 

The glorious victory that had been obtained in the 
Liman of OtchakofT by the flotilla of small vessels which Sir 
Samuel had fitted out, naturally led him to wish that his 
English experimental vessels might be armed in a similar 
manner; but he was aware that the heavy ordnance which 
he had put on board the Russian barks would not be 
tolerated in small vessels in this country. He had applied to 
(xeneral Ross for howitzers for his schooner ships, but 
none could be spared; he therefore confined himself to 
32-pounder carronades, and to the Sadler's experimental 
guns. With these guns be had been desirous of employ- 
ing shells and other explosive missiles of great power ; 
but from this he was dissuaded by the observation of 
(reneral Ross, that as the enemy had not such in use, it 
would not be well to show them the destructive powers 
of such missiles. At the first arming of all the six vessels, 
it may be said that very few excepting the commanders of 
them could admit the expediency of fixing guns so as to 

ck the recoil ; but by degrees experience of this mode 
in actual warfare, soon diminished the aversion to it in 



those who had had opportunities of seeing it in use. In 
the expedition against Holland, some of the experimental 
vessels had distinguished themselves in the Texel ; and 
General Bentham, wishing that the Admiralty should be 
officially informed of the real effects of non-recoil mount- 
ing, requested Lord Spencer to obtain a statement of it 
from the Commander. His Lordship replied : 

"Admiralty, 16th September 1799. 
" Dear Sir, — I have, in consequence of your letter, directed 
the officers commanding your vessels who were employed in the 
expedition to be called on for an official report on the effect pro- 
duced by firing on the non-recoil principle ; and if it is favour- 
able it will be of use in counteracting the strong prejudices which 
continue to be entertained on this subject. 

" Want of men has been the sole cause of the Millbrock's de- 
tention, but I hope we shall soon be able to put her into activity. 

" Yours very sincerely, 

" Spencer." 

The Inspector-G-eneral had defined what he meant by 
the principle of non-recoil as follows : — " The mounting a 
piece of ordnance in such manner as that it shall have no 
other recoil than that wdiich takes place in consequence of 
the elasticity of the materials employed to hold it; to 
which may be added in sea service the yielding of the 
whole vessel." " It is on this principle that mortars (the 
largest pieces of ordnance), and swivel guns (the smallest), 
have always been mounted ; and it is in conformity to this 
principle that every one holds a musket or a fowling-piece 
to his shoulder." 

The most prominent advantages of this mode of mount- 
ing ordnance are, shortly, that vessels too small or frail, 
or being in some parts too weak to bear ordnance when 
mounted so as to recoil, are sufficiently strong to bear 
heavy ordnance if mounted on the principle of non-recoil. 
Half the usual number of men suffice to work ordnance so 
mounted. Each gun so fixed may be fired at least twice for 

M 3 


once if mounted as usual. The use of the gun is not pre- 
vented by any weather, however bad. The gun can be used 
however much the vessel may heel; it is in constant readi- 
ness for action ; it does not jump on quick firing ; it can be 
left without lashing it ; it does not require for working it 
half the room necessary for the recoil of a gun; the ex- 
pense of the carriage is diminished by half; the weight of 
the carriage is but a third of the usual weight ; it is much 
less likely to be injured in action than a carriage that 
admits of recoil, and even if damaged, the gun might in 
most cases be refixed notwithstanding. Advantages such 
as these are sufficiently important to justify some detail in 
exhibiting their reality. The official reports which Lord 
Spencer had caused to be called for from the commander 
of the Dart, stated that (< the Dart, on the side of the 
forecastle towards the enemy, fired eighty ixmnds, without 
even the breeching being at all chafed, nor the ship in the 
least affected by it." The commander of the Eling reported 
" that the carronades fitted on the non -recoil principle, in 
his Majesty's schooner under my command, stood the firing 
on the 27th August perfectly well. ... As to the 
effect the cannonading had on the vessel that day, it was 
nothing ; for it did not even crack the pitch in the seams, 
neither was there a square of glass broken in any part of 
the vessel." 

The Netley schooner, during the twent} T months she was 
stationed off the coast of Portugal, took no less than forty- 
five vessels, of which eight were privateers — one of them 
a man-of-war; and it was only in two instances that any 
other English vessel had been in sight. In fact the Netley 
alone had taken "more of the enemy's vessels than were 
taken during the same time by all the other vessels of 
war on the station. One of the prizes, a packet, had on 
boa I'd, as officially stated, " a valuable cargo and 10,000/. 
in cash ;" there were also valuables in gold, &c., in addition 
to the cash and general cargo. It was gratifying that 


the commander (then Lieutenant), the late Admiral Bond, 
received honourable promotion and considerable prize 
money. It was said that his share of it from this vessel 
alone amounted to 20,000£. The full complement of 
fifty men on board the Netley, including officers, was less 
than half the number that would have been required in 
the ordinary mode to work sixteen 18-pounders and two 
smaller guns; besides which many of the crew were at 
times necessarily absent in prizes : for instance, the com- 
mander says, in a letter, 20th November 1799: — "At 
this moment I have not any one to take charge of a watch. 
I have no midshipman ; and the master, the only person 
of responsibility, is in the privateer." 

The very small number of men required for the non-recoil 
method of mounting artillery was fully exemplified in the 
Millbrook when she engaged the Bellone. It is generally 
known that the greater part of the men necessary for the 
service of a gun on shipboard, are required solely for the 
mere labour of drawing back the piece to the port after its 
recoil on firing. The Millbrook, armed with sixteen 18- 
pounders and two 12 -pounder carronades, would in the 
usual mode have been allowed six men to a gun, which 
together with those required for manoeuvring the vessel 
would, including officers, have made a crew of at least 
100 men; but the crew of the schooner on this occa- 
sion amounted to no more than fortv-seven. Her 
opponent, the French frigate privateer the Bellone, was 
armed with thirty-six guns, most of them, if not all, 
long guns, and 350 men. To quote a recorded narrative 
of this brilliant action of the Millbrook, "By the time the 
Bellone had fired her third broadside, the Millbrook had 
discharged eleven broadsides ; and the Millbrook's carron- 
ades were seemingly fired with as much precision as 
quickness, for the Bellone from broadsides fell to single 
guns, and showed by her sails and rigging how much she 
had been cut up by the schooner's shots. At about ten 

M 4 


the ship's colours came down." * The Bellone had twenty 
men killed, forty-five wounded ; whilst on board the Mill- 
brook, though nine men were very slightly wounded, and 
three more severely, not a single man ivas hilled. Here 
then was positive proof of some of the most important 
advantages of this mode of mounting, namely, its efficiency 
in action — the small number of men required to work 
the guns — the rapidity with which non-recoil guns can 
be fired — and besides these advantages, the great objec- 
tion that has been made to it, danger to the men, was by 
this action proved to be fallacious ; not a single man was 
killed in the Millbrook, although she had killed no less 
than twenty of her opponent's crew. The commander 
was rewarded for this glorious action by the thanks of 
the Committee of Merchants at Oporto for the protection 
which he had afforded to their convoy under his charge, 
and these thanks were accompanied by a handsome piece 
of plate. The Admiralty immediately promoted him, con- 
sidering his own gallantry not less remarkable than the 
superior qualities of the Millbrook. 

Another of the experimental vessels, the Dart, had also 
during the same year an opportunity of exhibiting her su- 
perior properties, the efficiency of non-recoil, and the skill 
and gallantry of her commander, Lieutenant Campbell. He 
took her into Dunkirk Eoads, attacked a French 36-gun 
frigate, the Desiree, in the presence and vicinity of four 
other French frigates, carried her off, a new vessel, and 
brought her home to an English port, to be taken into the 
British service as a 40-mm frigate. Lord St. Vincent 
expressed himself as considering this as even the most 
brilliant of the many glorious achievements of the time. 
Lieutenant Campbell was immediately promoted to post 

Another quality which the Inspector-General looked 

* James's "Naval History," Nov. 13th, 1800. 


upon as an important one for service, but which he re- 
presented as too generally neglected — shallow draught of 
water — was exemplified in these sloops, and which contri- 
buted to Captain Campbell's success in Dunkirk Eoads. 
Small draught had been found a most desirable property 
of the Dart and Arrow in the passage up the Texel in the 
expedition of 1799. All other vessels of the squadron of 
any considerable force were necessarily left behind, whilst 
these sloops worked from the Fluter to the Middlebank 
because they drew only thirteen feet water. The extra- 
ordinary strength of these vessels was at the same time put 
to the test. The carpenter of the Dart, in his report, states : 
" Our ship's draught was thirteen feet : for some miles we 
had but ten or eleven feet, never more than eighteen feet 
at the most ; so we were on the ground two-thirds of the 
way." The bottom must necessarily have been soft, but 
it may be asked what other vessels would have borne to 
be pushed on for miles where the water was two or three 
feet less than her draught? 



Correspondence with Lady Spencer on Reforms in the Civil Management of 
the Navy — Payment of Dockyard Workmen — Principles of his new 
System of Management — Report to the King in Council — Objections 
urged against a Reform — Office of Master Attendant — Principle of Dock- 
yard Appointments — Wages and Employment of Workmen — NaT}* Pay 
Books — Education for the Civil Department of the Navy — Naval 
Seminaries — Changes in the Accountant's Office — Interest of Money 
sunk in Public Works — Dockyard Working Regulations — Opposition of 
the Comptroller of the Nary — Official Tour to Portsmouth, Torbay, and 
Plymouth — Renewed Acquaintance with the Earl of St. Vincent — Dock- 
yard Abuses at Plymouth — Designs for a Breakwater — Return to 
London — Opposition to the Report — The Earl of St, Vincent succeeds 
Lord Spencer as First Lord of the Admiralty — The Report sanctioned in 
Council, May 1801 — Suggestions for arming Vessels of War — Green- 
wich Hospital — Office of Timber-Master in the Royal Dockyard — 
Efforts on behalf of Convicts — Management of Timber Stores — Report 
to Lord St. Vincent, February 1802 — Opposition — Commission of Naval 
Inquiry — Provisional Plan for the Education of Dockyard Apprentices. 

Although the services enumerated in the preceding five 
years might appear to have afforded sufficient occupation 
for any man's time and thoughts, they had been in fact but 
subordinate to the one great end which Sir Samuel Bent- 
ham had in view, that of improving the management 
of civil naval concerns, which, since the year 1798, he 
had been directed by Lord Spencer to consider as the 
most pressing and the most important of the several 
businesses in which he was concerned. The need of such 
improvement was first pointed out by the Inspector- 
General ; he felt that it was a hazardous undertaking, and 
hardly knew how he could best break ground. His inti- 
macy with Lady Spencer induced him, in the year 17 96, to 
venture on the subject with her. Lady Spencer could not 


be accused of interference in political decisions, nor of 
meddling with her husband's department ; yet many 
matters proceeded the more smoothly and more benefi- 
cially for the public service by her tact in indicating what 
would be agreeable, or at least tolerated, by those with 
whom Lord Spencer had to act. The Inspector-GreneraFs 
letter to her in the year 1796 will best give the first indi- 
cations of his attempts to improve management. It runs 
thus : 

" Your Ladyship has not forgotten our conversation, the clay 
before you left town, on the subject of certain principles of naval 
economy, which, notwithstanding their importance, appear to 
have been entirely neglected — a neglect which never could have 
existed but from a deficiency in the mode of keeping accounts, 
and which a change in that mode might effectually j>rovide 
against. The interest you seemed to take in those ideas of mine, 
and the severe injunction you laid me under respecting them, 
increased my hopes with respect to certain important effects 
which may one day or other be expected from them, and thereby 
induced me to address myself to you now on a subject bearing 
some relation to those ideas. Were I to address myself directly 
to Lord Spencer I might appear, not without reason, to expose 
myself to the imputation of meddling with matters beyond my 

" The case is simply this: I feel myself persuaded that I shall, 
in the course of a short time, be able to make it appear most 
clearly and decidedly to Lord Spencer, and to every other zealous 
and intelligent well-wisher to his Majesty's service, that the 
accounts and mode of management with respect to the expendi- 
ture will require to undergo certain alterations. 

" Before you accuse me of the rao;e of fancy in sr nobody knows 
anything but myself, you will have the charity to consider in 
what respects, and to what a degree, my situation differs from 
that of anybody else. Having all sources of information laid open 
to me, and leisure for the investigation of the reasons on which 
any given practice can be supposed to be founded, I have 
nothing to do but to suggest improvements ; and to a man in my 
situation, common sense must be wanting if he had not improve- 
ments to suggest. 


" In excuse for my troubling you with such a letter, let me 
once more observe that your Ladyship is the only person to 
whom I dare address myself on such a subject." 

It has been seen that the Insnector-Greneral had com- 
municated instances to Lord Spencer of enormous waste of 
timber by extravagant conversion — that he had exhibited 
to the Committee on Finance a variety of cases in which 
want of economy was habitual in the dockyards. Lord 
Spencer, though at the first moment he felt that exposure 
of such bad management might occasion dissensions with 
the Navy Board, yet was himself perfectly convinced of 
the need for reform — a "radical reform," as he himself 
expressed it in a letter to the Inspector-Greneral. In a 
few days after the first excitement caused by the Inspector- 
G-eneral's report to the Committee on Finance, his Lord- 
ship often discussed generally the means by which reform 
might be effected, and not long afterwards directed him 
to devote himself exclusively to this business — an in- 
junction which could not however be complied with lite- 
rally, while he had also to prosecute the vast engineering 
works which he had suggested, to introduce machinery, 
besides the ordinary duties of reporting on all proposal* 
referred to him, and to attend more or less even to trifling 
details in the architectural and mechanical departments of 
his office, under the ever present sense of his individual 

The works which he had proposed were no small 
calls upon his time and attention, even after they were 
ordered, since the dockyard officers, so far from forward- 
ing them with good will, threw numberless petty obsta- 
cles in the way of their execution. Lord Spencer, well 
aware of this, and also of the impediments to the speedy 
and economical refit of vessels of war coming into Ports- 
mouth for repair, had determined on the first occasion of a 
vacancy to appoint Mr. Henry Peake to the important 
post of principal shipwright officer in that yard; but 
the Navy Board circulated a report that the consequent 


appointment and change of officers in the several yards 
would not be according to their wishes. The Inspector- 
General, feeling generally how greatly the service would 
thus suffer, being then at Portsmouth, wrote to Lady 
Spencer in a doleful strain. Her Ladyship's answer does 
honour to her lord and to herself, no less than to General 
Bentham. To his letter, 11th July 1799, she replied: 

" Wimbledon, 13th July 1799. 

" I am much mortified to find that all my persevering, hearty, 
eloquent scolds, have been entirely thrown away upon you, — 
and that you are as bad as ever, fretting, plaguing, worrying 
yourself to death, about what ? — about nothing. You are incor- 
rigible, I fear, and therefore I will not lecture you any more — 
rather a fortunate resolution for me to have adopted just now in 
your favour, — since I am here, perfectly idle, having nothing to 
call me away, and having plenty of paper, pens, and ink to make 
use of — had I not resolved not to scold, how all these circum- 
stances would have acted against you ! 

"I don't know which is the worst, — you, or your man Peake, 
— not an ounce of patience falls to either of your shares — but what 
vou want in this quality, you make up in a superabundant 
quantity of imagination, and you create bugbears of every kind 
with a fertility truly surprising. All this long circumstantial 
detail of dockyard arrangements is an instance in point ; — not 
one word of it is founded in fact, but is a mess of your own cook- 
ing, for the sole purpose of disturbing your own peace and 
tranquillity, and of calling one away from Italy and the Mediter- 
ranean, where I am all day long fighting by land and sea, 
and gaining incredible victories. When I am so well employed, 
vou really have done harm by calling me away to settle such 
pitiful and inferior business as the broils of a dockyard are in 
comparison. All that you wish will happen in due time, if (and 
mind, I am serious) you will permit it to be put into execution, 
— but if you begin to work, and to set people on their guard, you 
will render the accomplishment of your wishes an impossible task 
to him who is firmly resolved, if you'll let him, to do all you 
want. Now, be quiet, and don't let Peake, or allow yourself to, 
open your lips on this subject from henceforward, and everything 
will be right, not else. — Adieu." 


This letter was gratefully thus acknowledged on the 

" Many, many thanks for your consolatory scoldings — but with 
respect to the quantity of patience you are pleased to prescribe, 
there was certainly a little slip of the pen — for ounce you meant 

" At such a time as this, I envy you exceedingly your occupa- 
tion of fighting over your battles in the Mediterranean and else- 
where. I think you have some obligation to us Russians. 

" Unluckily for me, it was in that country I got the habit of 
thinking all things possible — for I am apt to forget that this can 
only be true where there is power to persevere. 

" I am at the fortieth page of a letter calculated to be more 
than usually interesting to the Navy Board." 

In framing a new system of management for the dock- 
yards, he felt it to be but an act of justice, no less than of 
humanity, towards the workmen, to keep constantly in 
view and provide for their well-being, in as far as was 
not incompatible with the interest of the public. If by 
taking away their chips, the means were withdrawn from 
them of constructing cheap houses and furniture, it seemed 
requisite that a reasonable compensation for them should 
be granted. On the other hand, some practices on the 
part of Grovernment diminished their nominal emoluments 
without corresponding benefit to the public ; such, for 
instance, as delaying the pay of working men till the end 
of three months. Hence the workmen were forced to 
have recourse to money lenders, giving them as security a 
power to draw their pay at the quarter's end. The loss to 
the men was not confined to the interest in money re- 
quired by the " dealers," as the lenders were called, but 
the loss was greatly increased when the loan was furnished 
in goods instead of cash ; a lot of shoes, or of bread, — the 
shoes not fitting either the man or any of his family, and 

my more than were required for their wear, — the new 
bread, besides its superabundance, becoming stale and 


mouldy if kept, so that the poor dockyard people some- 
times were thus receiving little more in value to them 
than perhaps half their pay. The details of information 
on this and many other points which the Inspector-Oreneral 
considered essential to ascertain before he could venture 
to suggest a change, occasioned much delay in drawing up 
new regulations ; but early in the year 1800, after two 
years of patient labour, he had made up his mind as to 
the general principles on which they should be founded, 
and had made great progress in the details of the system 
which he had to propose. 

The general principles on which he grounded his new 

regulations were — 

1st. Individual responsibility throughout all the sub- 
ordinate departments. 

2nd. Choice of subordinates left as much as possible to 
the superior of each branch of business. 

3rd. Total separation of the controlling or accountant 
from the operative duties. 

4th. Employment of each individual to be registered. 

5th. Immediate transmission to the Navy Board of the 
minutes of all transactions which are to form the data on 
which bills are to be made out or wages paid. 

6th. Z7)icertainty as to what particular man would be 
the witness employed as a check on certain transactions, 
namely, all those in which personal interest can be sup- 
posed to stand in opposition to duty. 

The Admiralty the authority that is to order every- 

The superior operative officer at each port the instru- 
ment by which everything is to be done. 

The Commissioner of a dockyard the eye by which the 
superior Board is to see whether things be done well 
or ill. 

The Navy Board the check upon all expenditure. The 
Clerk of the Cheque their instrument by whom they are to 


be informed of all expenses incurred, and to be assured of 
the reality of appropriation to use of goods or money. 

These principles were widely different from those on 
which the business of the dockyards was. then, or indeed 
is still, conducted. There was not then, nor is there now, 
any one individual really responsible for any transaction, 
operative or accountant. The superior of a dock}-ard had 
no choice amongst his subordinate officers as to whom he 
should assign any specific duty. The minutes of all trans- 
actions remained in the dockyards, to be concocted so as 
to exhibit a fair face, before accounts of them were trans- 
mitted to the Navy Board. There was no register show- 
ing how each man was employed. The clerks emplo}^ed 
as witnesses of transactions, such as the musters of the 
men, were always one and the same for each transaction 
of the same nature. 

The above short statement of principles indicates that a 
future great change of the Navy Board was projected, 
particularly that it should be no longer implicated in the 
direction of works, so that they might neither feel, nor be 
supposed to feel, a bias in favour of any particular opera- 
tion, but become really free and impartial investigators of 
that important branch of service (the accountant), including 
the exposition of the means by which any effect had been 
produced, and a comparison of the cost at which any given 
effect had been obtained under different circumstances and 
different managements.  

The Admiralty being at this period much pressed by 
members of the late Committee on Finance, as also by the 
House of Commons, to make their report on the dock- 
yards in conformity to the order of 1792, the Inspector- 
General's sketch of a new system of management took 
the form of a report to the King in Council. The Secretary 
of the Admiralty had at first been charged with the business 
of drawing up a report in obedience to that order, but he 
had had little leisure to bestow upon it, and latterly, more- 


over, became so well convinced of the Inspector-General's 
more intimate knowledge of the real business of a dock- 
yard, that he now was happy to transfer this duty to him. 
They acted, however, as coadjutors, General Bentham as 
he proceeded taking his papers to Mr. Nepeau, and reading 
over the articles which he had prepared ; comments upon 
them were jointly made as seemed desirable. A copy of 
this report still remains in MS. in which insertions by 
Mr. Nepean are made wherever he thought it desirable 
to change either the matter or the expression. That 
MS. proves how very rarely he conceived any alteration 
necessary. The sketch was then put into the hands of the 
First Lord, who, after considering it, approved of the 
whole. The next step, at the particular request of the 
Inspector-General, was to have the sketch printed, and 
a copy distributed to each of the members of the Navy 
Board, the Eesident Commissioners of the dockyards, 
and to other persons believed either to have an interest in 
the projected regulations, or to be able to give valuable 
opinions respecting the proposed measures. Those several 
persons were requested to make observations as to the 
several items, whether for their alteration, improvement, 
or omission. 

Amongst the returns of these sketches was a long state- 
ment written by the Comptroller of the Navy, in which he 
objected to almost every change proposed. This paper, 
comprising all the objections that had been made from 
every other quarter, was given by Lord Spencer to the 
Inspector-General, with directions to make his observa- 
tions on it. He did so, of course, and drew up an answer 
to the Comptroller's objections, which, in some instances, 
exhibited such a want of information (on the part of the 
Comptroller) as to the real mode of carrying on the busi- 
ness of the dockyards, that the Inspector-General felt 
averse to allow particulars to fall into the hands of clerks. 
He therefore caused the fair copy of his answer, some 



eighty pages, to be made by one of his own family, who 
could be depended on for secresy. He was subsequently 
directed by the First Lord to make this paper official, 
which was accordingly done by letter to the Secretary of 
the Admiralty, 15th July 1800. 

The particulars of the Comptroller's objections, together 
with the answer to them, are mostly of too little general 
interest for insertion here ; yet some of the principal items 
seem worth extracting. The economical and efficient 
management of a naval arsenal is a subject of great im- 
portance to the nation at large. Perhaps the difference 
between good and bad management might amount to the 
expenditure of even millions more or less in the year, and 
this may be considered a far more important reason for 
giving some account of this paper, than that it redounds 
to the Inspector-General's credit as evincing his intimate 
knowledge of dockyard concerns. 

The Comptroller, in his introductory remarks, gave it 
as his opinion that no change in the system of management 
was necessanr, and adduces, in support of that opinion, 
the Report of the Commissioners of Inquiry, 1784, the 
opinion of Sir Charles Middleton, and the Select Com- 
mittee on Finance, 1798. In refutation of this view of 
that testimony the Inspector-General quotes the Report of 
those Commissioners, who in the conclusion of it say, 
" When the frauds and abuses to which we have adverted 
are combined with the immense amount of expenditure for 
naval services, we do not hesitate to declare that a neiv 
system is indispensably necessary." In regard to Sir 
Charles Middleton, the Inspector- General refers to a 
paper written by him, which had contributed to the 
institution of the Inspector-General's office, and which 
indicates that its author was strongly impressed with a 
conviction that some very great changes were indispen- 
sable. As to the Committee on Finance, the evidence of 
Lord Keith and of the Inspector-General was decidedly 


in favour of reform, and the Committee themselves ex- 
pressed their opinion that that evidence was deserving of 
the attention of the Admiralty. 

The Comptroller and the Inspector-Greneral differed ma- 
terially as to the duties of the Eesident Commissioner. By 
Bentham's plan the Commissioner was to be relieved from 
many duties, such as interference in operative and manu- 
facturing business, for which he could not be supposed to 
be competent; but, on the other hand, he was to become 
strictly responsible for many other duties capable of being 
executed by any man of sound judgment and nautical 
experience, at the same time receiving authority to 
interfere in every transaction whenever he might feel 
assured that his interposition was desirable; but he must 
be willing to take upon himself responsibility by giving 
his orders not verbally but in writing, and by trans- 
mitting to town on the same day information that he had 
so interfered. He instanced cases requiring knowledge in 
naval construction, such as a commissioner could not be 
expected to possess ; for instance, which of two defective 
ships could in time of need be sooner got ready for 
service ; whether necessary repairs to a ship could best be 
effected at moorings, at a jetty, or whether the ship must 
necessarily be brought into dock ; whether the hold must be 
cleared or not — matters, like very many others, evidently 
requiring the practical knowledge of a shipwright. 

The Inspector-Greneral further observed that the Com- 
missioner, though not responsible " for the due execution 
of orders, may nevertheless be considered as an instrument 
by whom, in the hands of the Admiralty, the existence of 
any abuse may be brought to light, and the correction 
of abuse be much facilitated ; whereas, were the Commis- 
sioner himself to be charged with the continual direction 
of the business, he would necessarily be himself implicated 
in any mismanagement or abuse, and consequently, instead 
of being an efficient check upon those to whom the direc- 

N 2 


tion of the business is intrusted, he would become himself 
interested in the concealment and palliation of any errors 
to which, in the first instance, he may have been led 
unawares to give his sanction." 

Of late years this powerful argument seems to have 
been lost sight of, since the officer holding the place of 
the Commissioner under the title of Superintendent, has 
been by degrees more and more charged with interference 
in the current operative and accountant business of a dock- 
yard ; so that, although he is supposed to be the Admiralty's 
instrument whereby they may discover errors, he has 
become really nothing more nor less than the principal 
operative officer, as also the chief accountant officer, in- 
stead of being alone the Admiralty's " eye." 

By the proposed new system it was the Master Ship- 
wright, under the title of Surveyor, who was made respon- 
sible for shipbuilding and repairing, and for all the other 
manufacturing works, and who was to have under his 
orders and control the whole of the officers and work- 
men of the dockyard, excepting only the officers and 
other persons employed in the accountant branch, which 
was to be entirely separated from, and act as a check 
upon, the operative branch. 

The Comptroller objected to the placing this whole 
business under any one man. A shipwright officer, is, 
however, a man who, from his education and previous 
employments, could not but be acquainted with the most 
important parts of the business of a dockyard, in contra- 
distinction to assigning the same duty to the Commis- 
sioner, who neither from education nor experience can be 
conversant with any part of the operative business of a 
dockyard; but the real ground of objection, there can 
hardly be a doubt, was that it interfered with the Masters- 
Attendant of dockyards. 

Favour to Masters-Attendant has always greatly in- 
fluenced the Admiralty and the superiors of other depart- 


ments under them. They are always selected from 
Masters in the nav}^, and this is the only promotion to 
which officers of that class can look forward as the re- 
ward for eminent services on shipboard. In the navi- 
gation of a ship, especially in its pilotage, the skill of 
the Master is often of pre-eminent importance ; yet the 
Admiralty have nothing on board ship to bestow as pro- 
motion or reward to this description of, it may be said, 
scientific officer beyond the change from a small vessel 
to a larger one. A Master in the navy remains always a 
Master ; he has no command to look forward to, like the 
mere boy midshipman ; neither pennant nor flag flut- 
ters in his eye, and on retirement his half-pay is not 
commensurate with the importance of his duties afloat. 
Considerations of this nature have excited a laudable 
desire to reward this class of officers by honourable em- 
ployments on shore. The place of Master-Attendant 
in a dockyard is the only one suited to their former 
occupations; and as there are but few such places to 
bestow, the desire has always prevailed amongst the naval 
members of the Admiralty and other Boards to make 
these few pre-eminent in emolument as well as rank. The 
Inspector-Greneral, impressed as he was with the value of 
a Master's services at sea, could not assent to granting 
them promotion and reward, &c, at the expense of 
interference with a proper arrangement of the business 
of a dockyard. But he was induced to enter very fully 
into the details of that officer's duty, perhaps with a 
minuteness that can only be accounted for by the dis- 
position which he knew to exist of rendering the Master- 
Attendant superior in rank and in emolument to all other 
officers of a dockyard. He showed that the business of 
this officer is in fact subservient to that of the Master 
Shipwright; that most frequently the Master-Attendant 
had actually to receive instructions for his guidance 

N 3 


from the shipwright. Whilst these subordinate duties 
were assigned to him in a dockyard, the most im- 
portant of those which he performed on board ship, 
pilotage, was withdrawn from him when he became a 
Master-Attendant, so that his knowledge of coasts and 
harbours, so essential at sea, could no longer be of use on 
shore, where his constant presence was the better insured 
by giving him a house within the yard. In those dock- 
yards where there is more than one M aster- Attendant, the 
Inspector-General further stated that the business of their 
department " is carried on with much more disorder and 
much worse management than the business of any other 
department;" "they change duties, according to their 
owm division of it, every week," so that " it often happens 
that they do and undo alternately what the other had 
done the week before." As to what seemed the most 
important article of a Master-Attendant's duty (the exa- 
mination of the sails, rigging, and other boatswain's stores 
on a ship's coming in from sea), new officers had, in 1795, 
been appointed to do this duty, namely, the Surveying- 
Masters, who were placed, not under the Masters- Attendant, 
but under the Commissioner ; and although the appoint- 
ment of these Masters had been to prevent waste, it was 
shown how ill-suited the arrangement was to effect the 
desired purpose. 

The Comptroller further objected to the change proposed, 
because for the Master- Attendant's business "no shipwright 
officer could be qualified." How is it then that the sur- 
veyors at the Navy Office were considered competent to 
direct, and did direct, the Masters-Attendant at all the 
dockyards ? " Yet, if the surveyors at the Navy Office had 
not been qualified for this branch of duty while they were 
master shipwrights on the spot where the duty is carried 
on, I should not suppose that the mere circumstance of 
their removal straight from the situation of a master ship- 
wright in a dockyard to the superior situation of surveyor 


at the Navy Office, could at once inspire them with the 
requisite knowledge." 

The Comptroller concludes the subj ect by observing that 
" the dockyards do not at present produce persons in the 
shipwright line capable of conducting so extensive a plan." 
Yet, although the Comptroller looked upon the shipwright 
officers as not competent to conduct the business of any 
one dockyard, these very persons were the only ones 
who ever became surveyors of the navy, in which situa- 
tion they had the superior direction of the operative 
business, not only of one, but of all the six dockyards, 
and moreover of the whole navy. The Inspector-Greneral 
observed, however, that "as any superiority of talents 
in the management under the new svstem would become 
immediately efficacious and apparent, greater discrimi- 
nation of talent would in consequence appear necessary 
in the selection and appointment of dockyard officers. 
It might very well happen also, that some of those who 
have been advanced to the higher classes before such dis- 
crimination was requisite, may now be deemed unfit to 
remain in them, and that some officers of this description 
might, perhaps, on the introduction of individual respon- 
sibility, feel their own incapacity and shrink from so 
arduous a duty: whereas now, the tit and the unfit are 
equally anxious to undertake any charge, because they 
must have reason to suppose that any degree of unfitness 
in point of intelligence under the present system may re- 
main unnoticed." 

Amongst the masters (Art. 19) there was introduced " an 
additional officer, who may be styled a master engine- 
maker, who should be a man conversant in the 'principles 
of mechanics as well as in the business of a millwright, 
so as to be capable of assisting the surveyor on all me- 
chanical subjects." The Comptroller observed that the 
propriety of this " must depend upon the extent to which 
the new system of mechanics is intended to be introduced 

N 4 


into the dockyards." The Inspector-General leniently 
supposes that the word mechanics had by mistake been 
used instead of machinery, then introduced at his proposal 
into Portsmouth yard. On this, he observed, "I do not 
see how the propriety of introducing into the dockyards 
an officer skilled in general mechanical knowledge should 
at all depend on the introduction of this, or any other new 
system of machinery ; since, independently of the prac- 
tical knowledge necessary for the management of any 
article of machinery, no well-grounded judgment can be 
formed respecting the need there may be for improvement 
in the shape, in the mode of putting together, or in the 
fastening of any of the component parts of that very 
complicated machine, a ship, without a perfect knowledge 
of the principles of mechanics? He then observes that 
seamen and shipwrights did all of them acquire some ideas 
of mechanical causes and effects; yet that "the study of 
mechanics as a science, does not necessarily constitute any 
part of the education of any of the persons who are con- 
cerned in the direction of the business of a dockyard." 

At this day it may be difficult to conceive that a know- 
ledge of the principles of mechanics should, so late as the 
end of the last century, have been esteemed altogether 
unnecessary in a dockyard. But so it was — there were 
doubtless some rare examples, amongst the officers, of men 
who might have acquired some knowledge of those prin- 
ciples; but it has not been till after the exertions of 
General Bentham, that a knowledge of mathematics and 
of the principles of mechanics has come to be regarded 
as essential to the naval architect. 

Article 29 of the sketch related to the working men. 
" In order that such encouragement be held out to them, 
as shall afford sufficient inducement to every individual to 
exert himself continually in the performance of his work 
in the best manner he is able, according to the directions 
of his superiors, and that this may be effected at the least 


expense to the public, we propose " principally " that the 
artificers be arranged under as few denominations as pos- 
sible;" "that the artificers of each denomination be 
divided into not less than two, and generally into three 
classes, according to their degrees of ability, diligence, and 
good behaviour;" "that the pay allotted to each of these 
classes be different ; " " that the classification be made 
anew every year;" "that the pay be proportioned to the 
number of working hours, winter and summer;" "that 
ten hours of work be considered as a day's work, excepting 
only in winter with regard to such work as cannot be done 
by candlelight ;" "that the artificers or others, when wages 
are reckoned by the day, be paid at the end of every week, 
and that the payment be made clear of all deductions and 

In reference to these articles, the Comptroller observes : 
"I do not see that any alteration in the present mode 
would have much use. The work is carried on chiefly by 
task and job, and performed by men in companies." 

The subterfuges and falsifications habitually employed 
in order to produce an apparent conformity to regulations 
as to the pay of artificers, afford abundant proof of the 
great need which existed of a reform of the system of 
management; and the Comptroller's assertion as to the 
manner in which work was carried on, is a glaring instance 
of his ignorance as to the real transactions of a dockyard, 
and of the regulations and orders by which superior officers 
are habitually restrained. 

A part of the work was, it is true, done by task, that is 
paid by the piece, but so small a proportion that, taking 
Portsmouth yard as an example, only four companies of 
shipwrights out of " the forty-three employed there were 
task companies. These companies were allowed peculiar 
privileges ; they had a right to exclude from amongst them 
all men whom they conceived to be inferior workmen, 
idlers, or too old to do a hard day's work, so that the task 


companies consisted of prime men alone. Their work was 
almost exclusively building new ships, or making such 
great repairs of old ones as admitted of accurate delinea- 
ment of the work to be done. Their privilege of rejecting 
men could not but have a prejudicial moral influence on 
the thirty-nine other companies, but otherwise it might be 
considered as highly advantageous. 

The thirty-nine companies which were employed in the 
repairs and fittings of vessels, which constitutes the greater 
part of the work in times of war, were paid by what was 
called the job — or, as falsely supposed by the Comp- 
troller, in proportion to the work done by them at prices 
paid by the surveyors of the Navy. In point of fact they 
were paid, not according to the quantity of work executed, 
but at the paid rate of 4s. 2cZ. for a day's work. Accounts 
of work done by job were regularly sent up to the sur- 
veyor's office, and there the prices for it were corrected ; 
but as " there is a standing order of the Navy Board which 
forbids the Clerk of the Cheque to set down the earnings 
of any man employed in job work as greater than a certain 
established daily allowance" (4s. 2d.) "this extent of earn- 
ings to which it has been thought fit to limit the most in- 
dustrious, has become the exact uniform greatest allowance 
which every man employed in job work is allowed to re- 
ceive." By falsifications of various descriptions, the most 
laborious, the best skilled, the idle, the infirm, those 
employed on regular work at the dock side, or those 
buffeted about half their time in going out to Spithead, 
all were made to appear in the books to have done work of 
the same value, 4s. 2d., neither more nor less. Thus, " by 
falsification continually connived at, such an uniformity is 
given to this mode of payment by the piece, as may, on a 
hasty view of the subject, appear to be the result of the 
utmost perfection in management." " In justice, however, 
to the good disposition and willing industry of many of 
the artificers themselves, as well as to the zealous alacrity 


of some of the officers, it seems proper I should state 
that in several instances which have come within my 
knowledge, a company, or more, of shipwrights have in 
cases of emergency been induced by their officers to exert 
themselves in so extraordinary a degree, that, reckoning 
the value of the work done at the allowed rates, the real 
earnings have amounted for some days successively, to ten, 
twelve, or fifteen shillings a day for each man ; yet these 
industrious men received no more than the exact stipulated 
rate of payment, and consequently no more than what is 
allowed to the most idle." He then stated that, on some 
occasions, falsification of the job notes not only made the 
quantity of work appear greater than it really was, but 
that sometimes the shipwright officers thought it prudent 
to suppress altogether mention of some articles of work that 
had actually been done. The Inspector-Greneral's intimate 
knowledge of what really took place in the dockyards 
enabled him to state many other mischievous effects that 
had resulted from this mode of payment. 

The observations on the Comptroller's objections were, 
at Lord Spencer's desire, furnished to him piecemeal, as 
they were written. The statements respecting job work 
appeared so extraordinary both to Lord Spencer and to 
Mr. Nepean, that as an unusual favour they obtained for 
the latter from the Navy Office the loan of a pay book for 
each dockyard, and in confidence they were intrusted to 
the Inspector-General for examination. These books were 
kept secret and sacred at the Navy Office, and well they 
might be, for although the Inspector-Greneral in the course 
of his investigations had been led to suspect that the pay 
books were not altogether so satisfactory as they had been 
represented to him,- yet " On my first inspection of these 
books, I must confess, that notwithstanding all I had 
already witnessed in regard to the keeping of dockyard 
books, my astonishment was very great, for never before 
; had I seen the existence of such scaring instances of inac- 


curacy and inefficiency." He noted and extracted for his 
Lordship's information the general dissimilarity in the 
manner of keeping these books in the different yards, and 
" the glaring incorrectness, falsifications, and abuses that 
present themselves on a bare inspection of the books." 
" As to the falsification and abuse of the setting down pay 
for a far greater time than had been worked, nay, even to the 
amount of double what could possibly be worked, I found 
it regularly and officially tolerated — I might say, autho- 
rised." Artificers in a dockyard, when quite worn out, 
or discharged after long service, have usually a superannu- 
ation allowance granted them ; but not a fixed one either 
as to amount or to the time of its commencement. His 
views on the subject were the giving a fixed but low 
annuity commencing at a rather early age, increasing the 
amount of it every five years, till at last it should be suffi- 
cient really to provide for the wants of an old man. As 
the small annuity in earlier years could not suffice for entire 
maintenance, he would have forbidden the recipient from 
the moment of its acceptance to work at day pay, but 
would have allowed and encouraged him to continue his 
labours at any of the works which could fairly be paid 
for by the piece. As any such measure would, at that 
time, have been regarded as visionary, he confined himself 
to proposing a fixed superannuation. The making this 
allowance adequate to a man's maintenance, he said, would, 
in fact, be a saving to the public, who " would no longer 
suffer, as at present, in consequence of the retention, from 
motives of humanity, of infirm men in the service after 
they have ceased to be able to earn their pay ; but who, if 
discharged according to the present system, would be left 
destitute of the means of subsistence." Many such infirm 
men are still retained in the service at day pay, receiving 
from 60/. to 70/. a year. 

Art. 45 to 51 proposed naval seminaries at each of the 


four principal dockyards, to which the Comptroller ob- 
jected altogether. 

During the Inspector-General's own apprenticeship to the 
master shipwright at Woolwich, and afterwards at Chatham 
dockyard, he had felt severely that the means which 
Government employed for the education of young men 
who were being trained for the civil department of the 
navy, were altogether inadequate ; nor were the deficien- 
cies of dockyard instruction compensated in the Naval 
Academy at Portsmouth, where he had become a pupil 
after his apprenticeship, so that all along, in his own in- 
stance, instruction was necessarily obtained by the means 
of masters and men of science in no wise connected with 
government establishments. The time, too, requisite for 
study was stolen ; for many an hour and many a day which 
appeared in the books as if he had been at shipwright's 
work, he had been really at his studies, and even absent 
from the yard. He was driven to seek in foreign countries 
the further information in naval architecture and the sub- 
servient sciences that was not obtainable at home. On 
his return to this country he found the same deficiency in 
naval education, which w 7 as the more extraordinary, as 
during his absence very great advances had been made in 
the application of science to the improvement of private 
manufacturing concerns. The establishment of naval 
seminaries had, therefore, been amongst the first measures 
of improvement that he had suggested to Lord Spencer, 
and with his approbation he arranged the outlines of a 
plan of them. 

The plan embraced both manual and scientific instruc- 
tion in every art and science subservient to the creation, 
maintenance, and efficiency of his Majesty's vessels of war, 
exclusive only of strictly military matters, and military 
knowledge in naval warfare. 

The pupils were divided into three distinct classes in 


point of rank, the education in each class being suited to 
the station in life which the pupils were afterwards likely to 
fill. The first class was to consist principally of sons of 
superior military and civil officers ; the second class prin- 
cipally of sons of warrant officers, of master workmen, of 
clerks, and others who in general estimation might be con- 
sidered of the same rank in society at large ; the third class 
of sons of workmen, or of boys to be reared as workmen or 
as seamen. 

General arrangements conducive to health, strength, 
and cleanliness, as also general fundamental instruction in 
religion and morality, were to be pr®vided for all classes 

Means of acquiring all the information, and even accom- 
plishments, usual in a liberal education, were to be pro- 
vided for the first class, and to a certain extent for the 
second, including, of course, classical education. 

To do away with the feeling of thraldom so unfortu- 
nately frequent in all apprenticeships, it was intended 
that in each class the friends of a pupil might redeem him 
at any time on payment of a fixed sum, sufficient to reim- 
burse to Grovernment the expense incurred yearly on his 

Considering that in the naval civil service the highest 
officers, the surve} 7 ors, had first served their time as work- 
ing shipwrights, and had risen from that inferior grade 
through many different ranks of dockyard officers — that 
in private life, many amongst the most distinguished in 
liberal professions, as well as in manufacturing concerns, had 
risen by their talents from very inferior stations to wealth, 
honours, and high rank in society — means were proposed 
by which in these seminaries some few of the lower 
classes might, by superior acquirements, attain the first- 
steps to similar eminence ; so that at examinations at fixed 
periods the most distinguished pupil of the third class 
should be raised to the second, and so on, provided that 



he should also have satisfactory testimonials of general 
good behaviour. 

On calculation of what had hitherto been paid in the 
dockyards for wages to apprentices, and of the value of 
work to be expected from younger boys in light works — 
as peg-making, line-spinning, boat-building, &c. — it ap- 
peared that the expenses of the second and third classes 
would be more than repaid by the value of their labour. 
The first class was intended to afford an almost gratuitous 
education to the small number of pupils of which it was 
to consist, and was considered as placing in the hands of 
the Admiralty means of assisting meritorious officers of 
the higher ranks, when they happened to have large 
families. Indeed, in specific cases, it was intended that 
sons of officers should be admitted to the seminary as a 
matter of course — such as those of officers killed in action. 
Details of this nature the Inspector-General did not pre- 
sume to decide ; he merely considered this part of his pro- 
posal as the broad outline of assistance that might be thus 
afforded at little cost to meritorious servants of the public. 
But however much the liberality of Government might be 
extended, he felt assured that the third class would more 
than repay its own expenses. Whether in the higher 
classes pupils should be admitted or not, on paying the 
actual expenses incurred on their account, was a point of 
secondary consideration. 

A peculiarity of these seminaries as proposed, was that 
of giving, particularly to the third class, two different 
callings by which a livelihood might be earned. Generally 
speaking, seamanship was intended as the secondary 
means. For this, and many other important reasons, it 
was intended that the greater part of the pupils should 
pass a portion of their time on shipboard, in the navi- 
gation of vessels used exclusively for dockyard service more 
particularly, in which, whilst they might acquire sea legs 
and somewhat of a seaman's skill, attention to their moral 


conduct and industry might be provided for by a judicious 
choice of the masters of those vessels. 

To these seminaries the Comptroller vaguely objected 
the necessity of " keeping down " the expenses of a dock- 
yard, and that by increasing the number of men com- 
petent to perform the work carried on in it, the artificers 
would "become more refractory and difficult to be kept 
in order." As to the latter objection, it is well known 
that an increase of the number of workpeople in any busi- 
ness is the most effectual bar to combinations. The se- 
minaries were intended to rear a greater number of 
shipwrights than were ever likely to be required for the 
dockyards ; no engagement was intended that employment 
should be found for them when out of their time ; there- 
fore the idea that because they were shipwrights each in- 
dividual of them was of importance to the State would 
no longer exist ; and as to the then present stock of these 
artificers, the prospect of so great a number coming on to 
supply their place, w T ould not fail of rendering them much 
more orderly and tractable. 

Although this plan was in the year 1800 in preparation 
to be acted upon, it has never been more than partially 
carried into effect. A limited establishment of superior 
apprentices was a few years afterwards formed in Ports- 
mouth yard, and exhibited in practice several of the 
peculiarities which the Inspector-General had proposed. 
Several of the young men so educated have since been 
distinguished for their superior attainments; but in the 
successive changes of administration this establishment 
was abolished. The consequence of the continued want 
of appropriate and scientific instruction has been that the 
Naval Department have felt themselves obliged to call in 

-i stance from the Department of Military Engineers, many 
of whose officers fill several important scientific institu- 
tions in our naval establishments. Of late some schools 
of a secondary nature have been established for shipwright 


apprentices in the dockyards, and annually the best pupil 
from each yard is promoted to an establishment at Ports- 
mouth where scientific instruction is afforded. Still the 
education afforded never can produce the superiority which 
was expected to result from the naval seminary — that is, it 
never can do so without subterfuge ; for the bovs must have 
served four years as working apprentices before they can 
be received at Portsmouth — a boy working as an artificer 
the whole day cannot possibly have time for study, so that, 
unless his absence from the dock side be winked at, per- 
haps encouraged, by the officers, it is next to impossible 
that at the age of eighteen a lad should have acquired 
scientific knowledge in either mechanics, mathematics, 
chemistry, or in any other of the sciences subservient to 
the business of a dockyard. 

New arrangements for the accountant business of a 
dockyard were proposed. The Comptroller said, in regard 
to them, " It changes the manner in which the accounts 
have ever been kept in the dockyards and at the Navy 
Office." In reply to this, the Inspector- General stated that 
he looked upon a change in the manner of keeping the 
accounts as " next in importance to the introduction of in- 
dividual responsibility." In support of this opinion he 
brought to view particulars in proof that " in the general 
system of accounts, the most important purposes to which 
accounts of mercantile and manufacturing operations, such 
as those of a dockyard, should be directed, have been alto- 
gether overlooked," or that they did not afford the means of 
ascertaining, still less for exhibiting at one view, either the 
real or the whole expense of any work, and consequently 
did not admit of a comparison of the expense of any 
two works ; that so many were the books to be referred to, 
that it would occupy a clerk's time for weeks to ascertain 
to which of several works, various articles of expense pro- 
perly belonged ; yet so uncertain were the results of such 
examinations, that the expense of one work of which he had 



had occasion to learn the cost, had been put down at differ- 
ent times at the very different sums of 98,929^., 87,525Z., 
and 102,058^. ; and this without any intention to make the 
cost of the work appear greater or less than its real 
amount. In some cases this inaccuracy, in others the falsi- 
fication of accounts, amongst other mischief, precluded the 
possibility of coming to any well-grounded conclusion of 
the expediency of any permanent work of improvement, 
so that instead of calculations of savings to be effected by 
it, decisions were usually based on such expressions as that 
it was a necessary work, or a national work, or some 
other such vague term of recommendation. 

Unfortunately, to this day, the thousands and hundreds 
of thousands of public money that are sunk on permanent 
works, still continue to be expended without considering 
the amount of savings or benefits that would result from 
them. The facility with which such estimates may be 
made, was proved in the instance of every permanent work 
of the Inspector-General's introduction, for before propos- 
ing any of them, he had entered into particulars of the 
annual money value of them, and discarded many that 
had presented themselves to him in an advantageous light 
whenever he found on investigation that a rent of eight 
per cent, at least on the capital sunk was not likely to be 
obtained by their use. 

Another example of the insufficiency of accounts was 
the facility which they afforded of lessening the apparent 
expense of a favourite work, and heaping it on some such 
work as repairs. The Inspector-General had himself 
witnessed falsification of accounts in this respect. Indeed 
it was still practised in the year 1830 ; for in one of the 
best conducted dockyards which he then visited, he saw an 
artificer employed in a business not authorised by the Navy 
Board, and learnt that he was so employed all the year 
round. It was a useful business, indeed a necessary one ; 
but that man's time must necessarily have been set down 


to some work to which he had never done a stroke ; and 
the evidence to the Select Committee, 1848, indicates 
that the practice still continues of lessening the apparent 
amount of favourite works. 

He stated also that the accounts of the receipt and ex- 
penditure of stores were as ill calculated to detect fraud 
and mismanagement, as in the case of those relating to 
workmanship. Improvements in these accounts have since 
been made; but the total want of responsibility in the 
storekeeper that the stock actually in hand should tally 
with the receipts and expenditure, necessarily implies that 
the agreement in quantities exists only on paper. The 
stock actually existing in the storehouses was never verified. 

In regard to the accounts of expenditure of money, he 
said that disregard of the value of interest upon it, led to 
immense losses, such as certainly never could have been 
suffered bad the accounts exhibited this item. One in- 
stance he noticed of an unperceived expense that had been 
incurred, where a work stated to have cost but 591,891/. 
had really amounted to the sum of 830,031/., consequent 
on the interest of the capital before the work was brought 
into use. 

For five-and-thirty years Sir Samuel Bentham continued 
to bring to notice the losses incurred from a disregard of 
interest on money, upon every possible occasion, and in a 
great variety of forms, from the time of the Committee on 
Finance, 1798, to that in 1828, and to the Admiralty again 
in 1831 — yet it has not attracted the attention of the 
House of Commons. It is not only in the Naval Depart- 
ment that this item is neglected, but it may be said that 
interest of money is disregarded in all the departments of 
government. It is true that very lately the cavillers against 
manufacturing articles on Government account, have 
brought forward the non-attention to interest on capital 
sunk, as an objection to such measures, and it is possible 
that the outcry of the interested and discontented may 

o 2 


produce improvement in this respect, although Bentham's 
strenuous endeavours for so long a series of years could 
not effect it, and this though he had shown the prac- 
ticability and facility of bringing interest to account in 
the manufacturing concerns under his direction, in which 
he had had the disbursement uncontrolled, but not un- 
watched, of about a million of money. 

The measures to which the Comptroller objected were, 
that the accountant branch should be committed to a dis- 
tinct set of officers ; that the accounts of all works per- 
formed should be so framed as to show the expense in- 
curred for each separate part of the work, so that it might 
be compared with previous estimates for similar works 
under different management, and with the supposed value 
of expected benefit ; that the books kept in the dockyards 
should exhibit all facts ; but that all comparisons should 
be made at the Navy Office in town. The Inspector- 
General concluded his observations respecting accounts by 
saying that, for the reasons which he had adduced, " I can- 
not, on my part, but look upon a gradual alteration of 
the mode of keeping accounts, as well in the Navy Office 
as in the dockyards, as essential to an improved system of 

That the Inspector-General's strong assertions of abuses 
and mismanagement were founded on fact, there cannot be 
a doubt. No denial of them was ever attempted by either 
the Comptroller, the Navy Board, or the dockyard officers, 
although all of these officers had shown themselves adverse 
to his plans of improvement, and for the most part still 
continued willing and ready to object to his proposals, and 
to deny their utility. The answer to the Comptroller's 
objections, as soon as it was made official, became very 
generally known amongst the officers whose duties it con- 
cerned, so that had it been possible to invalidate his asser- 
tions, there can be no doubt that they would have been 
contradicted and their falsehood prominently brought out. 


But it was not only in the written paper that the 
Comptroller made objections to the proposed plan. On 
the 18 th March 1800, Lord Spencer related to the In- 
spector- General several particulars of a conversation which 
he had had with the Comptroller. He had stated that 
" General Bentham had set out with saying that the Resi- 
dent Commissioner was to be invested with more power, 
but that when he came to read the plan he found that he 
could give no order whatever but by writing it" " Well, 
said I " (Lord Spencer), " then we shall know what orders 
he does give." Sir Andrew : " No Commissioner would 
submit to giving a written order ; in fact, it was taking 
the whole power out of his hands." Lord Spencer : " Not 
at all, if a Commissioner had any proper orders to give." 
Lord Spencer then said to the Inspector-General, " What 
the Comptroller has told me of the plan (by way of finding 
fault with it) I think very good." 

The Comptroller had thus insisted on the particular 
point, which to this moment, as it then was, is a complete 
obstacle to good management, that is, the putting into the 
superior officer's hands a power to interfere and give his 
orders without record of them, or any means of bringing 
them to light. 

It has been urged of late that the expenses of our civil 
naval department exceed the value of its products, but no 
efficient remedy for the evil has been suggested. When- 
ever the attention of Government may be seriously turned 
to new arrangements of the operative and mercantile busi- 
ness of a naval arsenal, even now, after the lapse of half a 
century, probably nowhere would such ample and correct 
data be found as in the Inspector-General's papers. 

In July, on taking leave of Lord Spencer before setting 
out upon an official tour, he was requested to make an 
abstract of the proposed new regulations in order that it 
might be shown to Mr. Pitt. This journey was to Ports- 
mouth, and along the south coast from thence to Plymouth. 

o 3 


On visiting Torbay he formed a new arrangement of neces- 
sary works, which was approved of and carried into execu- 
tion. They had not required new inventions or any superior 
engineering skill, but simply an inquiry into the real wants 
of the service, so seldom taken into account. Thus, instead 
of the pier that had been proposed, at which only five boats 
could lie to water (the supply of which only amounted to 
a sufficiency for that number of boats), his plan provided a 
pier at which twenty-nine boats could at once fill their 
casks from suitable cocks delivering water from a large 
main. The pier that had been proposed was so situated 
as to afford no protection to the boats in certain winds, 
but by his plan perfect protection was afforded whatever 
way the wind blew. To this work he added a storehouse 
sufficient to contain a month's sea store of provisions for a 
fleet of thirty sail of the line ; in recommending which 
he observed that it could not be considered as an extra 
expense, since it would supersede the construction of a 
storehouse of the same extent then intended to be built at 

In September of this year (1800) he had the gratification 
of renewing his intimacy with Admiral the Earl of St. 
Vincent, to whom, while Captain Jarvis, Bentham had been 
introduced while studying at Portsmouth, who, with the 
fleet under his command, was lying in Torbay. During 
the week that the Inspector-General remained at Brixham, 
the greater part of his time was passed with his Lordship. 
The proposed new management of the dockyards was dis- 
cussed, and Lord St. Vincent approved altogether of the 
regulations devised ; indeed, so thoroughly was he con- 
vinced of their expediency, that he proposed to get some 
member of the House of Commons to speak of them in 
the House, so as to insure their introduction, and under- 
took to manage the whole business himself if Bentham 
would but consent. 

This was an interesting week. Besides the weighty 


matters discussed, Lord St. Vincent's habit of prompt de- 
cision exhibited itself on many an occasion. He wanted 
a guard-house to be fitted up on the instant ; the In- 
spector-General undertook to do the business, but he 
happened to say that he wanted the assistance of a marine 
officer. His Lordship instantly called for his principal 
officer of that corps. On his entering- the cabin : " There, 
Colonel, that is General Bentham ; I appoint you his aid- 
de-camp ; you will do everything he wishes." One day 
it happened, whilst the Inspector-General was on the wharf 
at Brixham, that some accident happened to a man which 
rendered bleeding necessary, but the ship's surgeon, who 
was there on the spot, had no lancet. At dinner, the same 
day, the Inspector-General gave a hint of the occurrence, 
observing: at the same time that it would not be amiss 
if surgeons were obliged to carry about their instruments, 
as officers did their swords. The order was instantly given, 
that rt all surgeons should have their instruments always 
in their pockets." In " Lord St. Vincent's Life," by the 
son of his secretary, Benjamin Tucker, this anecdote is 
related, with the sole difference that the origin of the 
order is not mentioned, and that the word " pocket " was 
changed to " about their persons," as doubtless Mr. Tucker 
worded the order when he wrote it out officially. 

Different plans had been proposed for some time back 
for the forming a breakwater in Plymouth Sound, to 
which the General's attention had been called no less by 
the Lords of the Admiralty, than by the persons who had 
devised those plans. It had been one subject of discussion 
when he was with Lord St. Vincent in Torbay, whose only 
reason in favour of any work of the kind was that the 
rocky bottom of parts of the Sound was apt to injure 
a ship's cables. Eough sketches of his plans still exist, 
by one of which it appears that by forming a breakwater 
off Causand Bay (one of the plans that had been pro- 
posed) security might be afforded to a large fleet, at what 

o 4 


might be called a small expense. Another one was for 
damming up Catwater, and forming a breakwater on that 
side of the Sound. But would the use of such a work com- 
pensate for its cost ? His inquiries seemed conclusive 
against the project. How many ships, he inquired, had 
been wrecked or injured in the Sound ? So far as he couid 
learn, never any but one vessel of war up to that time : 
this vessel was a frigate, and its loss had been occasioned 
by the greatest carelessness on board. The ports had been 
left open in a gale of wind ; she filled and sank. After 
such a result of his inquiries the eligibility of any such 
breakwater at Plymouth Sound seemed too extravagant 
for him to venture on its recommendation. 

Notwithstanding his utmost endeavours to draw up the 
abstract of the proposed report which Lord Spencer had 
desired, he found it impossible to do so without entering 
into the subject of changes that would be necessary in the 
constitution of the Navy Board and of the other depart- 
ments under the Admiralty. His chief endeavour, there- 
fore, was to obtain at Plymouth many details respecting the 
superior management of the Navy Board, which might 
enable him not only to frame a plan for its improvement, 
but to support it by facts against objections, as he had 
been enabled to do in regard to the new regulations for 
the dockyards. Such information could be better collected 
at Plymouth than at other ports, not only because he had 
here free access to all books, but because the Resident 
Commissioner, and the heads of departments, civil and 
military, were both intelligent and communicative. 

Having collected a vast mass of information as to mal- 
practices on the spot, and of the many improprieties 
resulting from Board management, he returned to town. 

On the 9th November, both Mr. Nepean and Lord 
Spencer devoted themselves to a consideration of the 
report; he read it over "from beginning to end "with 
Lord Spencer, who thought the salaries low. He had 


been disinclined to allow fuel to the dockyard officers, but 
on representation of the absolute impossibility of pre- 
venting a servant from picking up a few shavings and 
the cover which this would afford to real abuse, the 
privilege of being provided with fuel was consented to. 
The allowance which the report proposed of the sixth 
of an officer's salary as pension to the widow Lord Spencer- 
thought " very proper," as also that proposed for children 
to the age of fourteen, but thought that to girls it should 
continue to the age of twenty-one. 

A new opponent to the reform of management now 
came forward in the person of Admiral Young, one of the 
Lords of the Admiralty. It was said of him, that he was 
" laborious in the minor duties of the office, and well-mean- 
ing, and not knowing exactly whom to get who would work 
so hard as he does, he is allowed to have more influence 
than he would be at all entitled to on any other ac- 
count." The Inspector-Greneral found that the objections 
made by the Admiral had been written by him in red 
ink on the fair copy of the report itself. They were 
answered as those of the Comptroller had been. This 
produced further delay of the abbreviated report — when 
Charles Abbot, as Chairman of the Committee on Finance, 
who had from the first taken great interest in the pro- 
posed reform, now threatened to make some motion on the 
subject in Parliament. The Inspector-Gfeneral was deputed 
to see Mr. Abbot "with a view to persuade him not to 
make any motion in the House respecting the report. 
Abbot says he has a character to support, and that if 
nothing is done by Monday se'nnight he must speak." 
On the 21st December, the Inspector-Greneral called on 
Mr. Nepean, by his desire, to inform him of this. It 
appears that Mr. Abbot did speak, for on the 30th it is 
noted that " Bentham called on Nepean to justify himself 
as not having had any hand in making Abbot say what he 
did in the House yesterday. Nepean has not yet heard the 


report mentioned in any way by Lord Spencer, but in the 
Board-room to-day Sir Philip Stephens asked why it was 
not brought forward." 

It was now determined that a report on the dockyards 
should be drawn up, but it had not been presented for the 
sanction of the King in Council, when a change of admi- 
nistration took place, and the Earl of St. Vincent succeeded 
Earl Spencer as First Lord of the Admiralty. 

The new Admiralty, having taken this report into con- 
sideration, adopted it immediately, that part of the pre- 
amble inclusively, which stated " that some progress was 
already made in the preparation of a new system of ma- 
nagement, founded on general principles of acknowledged 
efficacy;" and the whole was sanctioned by the King in 
Council, 21st May 1801. 

At this time Lord Spencer was frequently so much 
engaged that he could not give up so much time to the 
Inspector-Greneral as had been customary, but he was 
particularly friendly in regard to his private interests. No 
allowance had been given him for travelling expenses, on 
account of difficulties that had been made by the Navy 
Board. On the 7th February, Lord Spencer had said that 
it was highly expedient that he should now go to Ports- 
mouth, and " that nothing would be done till he went 
there." There was, on that same day, a report of a change 
of administration, and on the 8th he learnt its truth from 
Mr. Nepean, who desired him not to set out for Portsmouth 
the next day as was intended. On the 9th, Lord Spencer 
told him that Lord St. Vincent would probably succeed him, 
and added, " You will losa nothing by the change ; Lord St. 
A r incent has it in his power, and will do more for you than 
it was ever in my power to do." Yet the journal expresses 
much regret at the change, Lord Spencer having always 
been on such friendly terms and so pleasant to do busi- 
ness with. 

Lord St. Vincent, on becoming the First Lord, appointed 


the Inspector-General to go to him on the 16th, at half- 
past seven o'clock in the morning, thus continuing the 
early habits of shipboard now that he was in town. The 
principal subject discussed in this interview was one of the 
first importance in naval armaments. The Inspector- 
Greneral ventured to urge his own ideas on a subject on 
which it might be thought that so experienced and suc- 
cessful an admiral would hardly bear to be lectured by 
an inferior officer : he pointed out that " the force of a 
ship consists in the weight of shot she can throw in a given 
time." This was exhibiting the matter in a new light, 
but in the course of conversation his Lordship admitted 
that it was so, but i( did not think that carronades throw 
far enough." The discussion ended in a permission that 
the Inspector-Greneral should submit his observations on 
the subject in writing: this was accordingly done by letter 
22nd February 1801. 

This communication, together with others on the same 
subject, both before and subsequently, have doubtless been 
very useful in increasing the force of our naval armaments 
so immensely of late years. 

But his recommendations of conclusive experiments 
remain yet to be carried into effect. Experiments have 
frequently been made as to some one kind of projectile, or of 
one sort of gun, against some one other kind, but no such 
series of experiments as he had in view has ever been 
attempted. He urged that " the most advantageous 
weight of ordnance for sea service on board different 
classes of ships, the quantity of powder, and the species of 
shot best adapted to the several purposes, cannot be ascer- 
tained without a course of experiments instituted expressly 
for this purpose." 

He then proposed expedients by which the naval force 
of the country might be immediately increased without 
adding to the number of vessels of war, and which, so far 
from requiring more men, would diminish the number then 


employed; as, for example, in the instance of a 74-gun 
ship, the men required in the proposed mode would be less 
by forty-four than in the old one, though the force of the 
ship would be more than doubled. 

The Earl of St. Vincent at the head of the Admiralty 
continued the same man that he had been at the head of 
the fleet. He was as desirous as ever of introducing the 
Inspector-General's plan of reform in the dockyards; 
accordingly from the day of the very first interview he 
indicated his intention of adopting the report that had 
been signed by Earl Spencer, and even already seemed to 
consider that no one could be so well acquainted as the 
Inspector-General with the merits of persons already 
dockyard officers, or of those whom it might be desirable 
to introduce. It was not, however, on every point that 
his opinions and practice coincided with those of his pre- 
decessor. During the morning's conversation he said 
that " Lord Spencer had made an extraordinary number 
of officers " (naval officers) ; " that there are a great 
number unemployed; and added that he would for him- 
self make a vow not to make any one a commander, 
unless for specific actions, until all the deserving ones of 
those already made should be employed." It was on this 
very day, and under this determination, that his Lordship 
made Lieutenant Matthew Smith a commander, but it 
was in reward for his brilliant action in the Millbrook 
with the Bellone. 

Dinner on that day was a pleasurable meal, which 
Captain Smith partook of at the Inspector- General's, 
when he entered into the particulars which led him to 
think so highly of the Millbrook, and of her non-recoil 

Lord St. Vincent continued his early habits the same as 
ever. On the 6th he by appointment received the Inspector- 
G-eneral at breakfast at seven o'clock ; he was punctual to 
the time, and found the tea ready made. His Lordship 


"showed him some papers from Mr. Pitt and Dundas 
respecting a project now in contemplation for the destruc- 
tion of Archangel." " Spoke of Lord Spencer's jealousy 
of him (Lord St. Vincent), that no woman could be more 
jealous ; that Pitt had told him that Lord S. would 
rather that any other man should have succeeded him than 
Lord St. Vincent." This seemed remarkable, for no symp- 
tom of such a feeling had ever manifested itself in the 
frequent and confidential intercourse which the Inspector- 
General had had w T ith Lord Spencer ; at any rate it was a 
highly estimable point in Lord St. Vincent's character, 
that believing this, he should notwithstanding adopt the 
plans and the persons that had been brought forward by 
his predecessor. He was pleased with the plan already 
made out for new bed-places in Greenwich Hospital, re- 
gretted that notice had not been taken of the officers' 
apartments — but the office of Inspector-General was in- 
vidious enough, without his meddling uselessly with private 
interests. His Lordship and the Inspector-General set out 
together from Mortimer Street to walk to the Admiralty ; 
they met Lord Berkeley, who was on his way, he said, to 
breakfast with his Lordship — " Not at this time of day; I 
am up at five o'clock every morning," said Lord St. Viucent. 
Eentham asked when he would have a little time. " "Why 
I have no time, but if you will dine with me on Sunday, 
I will turn people away after dinner." And thus the 
friendly way in which he received the Inspector-General 
continued to the end of that administration. 

In speaking of what ships should first be brought forward, 
Lord St. Vincent observed that " without some specific 
and apparent reason, I am desirous not to alter any of 
Lord Spencer's arrangements," — a determination which, 
if it had been adopted by subsequent Boards of Admiralty, 
might have saved the expenditure of even millions of 
money by this time. His Lordship observed too that the 
inferior Board were " all in fear and trembling ; " " that 


the great plan of alterations in the dockyards conld not 
be brought forward till peace, but that would not be 
long first." 

The partial regulations for the dockyards having re- 
ceived the sanction of the King in council, he endeavoured 
to ascertain what persons would be most competent to fill 
the new office of timber-master. His Lordship disclaimed 
all 'patronage whatsoever, saying that " the fittest man, be 
he who he will, shall be appointed to every situation in the 
dockyards which he has the filling of." The habit of waste 
in the instance of the costly article timber had been so 
great in the royal dockyards, that the Inspector-General 
proposed taking men who, though brought up in them, 
had left the service for want of encouragement, and had 
since been employed in private yards, where the value of 
that store is known, and every piece of timber turned to 
good account. This measure was approved of; but it 
turned out that the emoluments in private business so 
much exceeded the pay allowed by Government, that most 
of the persons applied to declined accepting the proffered 
places. The mistaken notion always has been, and is still 
entertained, that the civil officers in the Navy Department 
are overpaid, whereas the fact is that the pay is not suffi- 
cient to retain men in the service, generally speaking, 
whose abilities are of a superior stamp. 

On the 4th July, the Inspector-General showed his 
Lordship a paper which he had prepared of appointments 
and removals of dockyard officers. He determined to adopt 
them all. As one of the officers, from his superiority of 
talents, was supposed to be a favourite with Bentham, he 
spoke of putting him at a more desirable yard than the 
one specified for him; this was opposed as not being "for 
the good of the service," to use the cant term ; and Lord 
St. Vincent was gratified by such forbearance of patronage. 
Traits of character such as many of the above have not ap- 
peared in the Life of the Earl of St. Vincent by Mr. Tucker, 


and their omission may furnish an apology for introducing 
so many of them here. 

In June of this year, the Inspector-Greneral's commise- 
ration was excited by the intended treatment of some 
convicts who had been sent to assist in various works in 
Portsmouth dockyard. The term of punishment of some 
of the most deserving of these men was to expire within 
a year, yet they were now ordered for transportation to 
New South Wales. He had been applied to in their 
favour by officers who had witnessed their good behaviour. 
When by means of a confidential person he had made 
further inquiries respecting them, he felt justified in 
making application to the Minister on whom their fate 
depended, to have this order annulled ; but not having been 
fortunate enough to find Mr. Pelham at home, he enclosed 
to him a list of the deserving men in question, acquainting 
him that " most, if not all, of these men have been found 
so trustworthy as not only to be suffered to work without 
irons or any particular inspection, but have also been 
stationed to assist the guards in taking care of the rest of 
the convicts." After specifying other particulars, he added : 
" The transporting men of this description, besides being 
evidently unjust, and productive of unnecessary expense, 
seems also particularly objectionable on account of its 
tendency to diminish very materially the inducement for 
good behaviour in all other convicts, who cannot fail to 
observe that the most meritorious conduct has only served 
to single these men out for transportation, whilst numbers 
of the most profligate and disorderly are suffered to remain 
in the country till their terms have expired." He was 
much gratified by a ready compliance with his request ; 
and it is believed that these men by their future good 
conduct left him no cause to regret his exertions iu their 
behalf. Other convicts were afterwards employed under 
his management, both at Portsmouth and Sheerness, and 
he had thus an opportunity of seeing the opinion confirmed 


which he had long entertained, that, without other pecu- 
niary sacrifice than that of very small rewards for industry, 
the most beneficial results would be obtained from constant 
regular employment of such men in useful works, seclud- 
ing them as much as possible from public gaze without 
depriving them of intercourse with fellow-men, and by 
habitually affording encouragement by an increase of 
kindly treatment according to desert, as well as a separa- 
tion of the meritorious from the refractory. 

It may be well conceived that acquiescence in his views 
of improvement and reform on the part of the new Naval 
Administration was to him a source of extreme satisfaction, 
more especially on account of the First Lord's intimate 
acquaintance with the civil concerns of the nav}^, acquired 
in a long career, during which his discerning and com- 
prehensive mind had scrutinised many of the defects of 
the civil no less than of the military branch of the service. 
The report that had been sanctioned by the King in 
Council did not, it is true, include any other part of the pro- 
jected general reform than that for the better management 
of timber and the abolition of the perquisite of chips ; but 
Lord St. Vincent was determined that the new regulations 
in these respects should be introduced and carried into 
execution with the fullest force, and therefore directed the 
Inspector-General to devote his attention principally to 
this business. He in consequence repaired to the dock- 
yard affording the greatest amount of information, Ports- 
mouth, where there happened at that time to be several 
officers of great ability; so that by examination of the 
books, and of the practice as to timber, as well as by 
discussions with those officers, he might, in addition to 
his former knowledge on the subject, be well prepared to 
draw up the details of management in regard to this store. 
He accordingly submitted to the Admiralty, on the 26th of 
December, a sketch of the instructions which he proposed 
should be given to the several officers concerned in the 


management of timber, from its first receipt to its appro- 
priation to use, as also a set of regulations in regard to it, 
and forms for the accounts to be kept. These were all of 
them approved and ordered to be carried into effect, 
and the superintendence of the new mode of management 
was committed to him individually for a term of three 

By these regulations " it was made the sole business of 
one officer, under the title of timber-master, to direct the 
converting, stowing, and sawing of the whole of the 
timber, braces, planks, &c, in each dockyard, that he may 
stand individually responsible for the due execution of 
this trust ; and that consequently he may have the credit 
or blame that may result from the comparative view of his 
management with that of the other dockyards." 

The accounts which he framed for this department, traced 
every piece of timber from its first conversion to its final 
application to use. Heretofore there had been the formality 
of many signatures of superior officers; but they were falla- 
cious, because those officers could but rarely know the uses 
to which specific pieces had been appropriated ; and the 
reports were made at periods too distant to be of use when 
they reached the Navy Office. By the new mode no other 
signatures could be of real avail than that of the person 
who authorised the employment of any given piece of 
timber, and that of the person who received it for use. 
At the same time it was provided that the controlling 
authority, the Navy Board, should be informed daily, 
instead of at very distant periods, of all transactions in the 
dockyards relative to this store. This was effected at little 
cost of time or money, as the copies sent up to town were 
taken by a copying press from the accounts as kept in the 

The saving of time in account-keeping was, however, 
frustrated by the Navy Board. They sent an order to the 
dockyards that, besides the new accounts, others should be 



kept in the old forms, and be sent to them in the usual 
manner. Seeing the disregard in which pressed copies 
were held by the Board, the clerks became careless in pre- 
paring them, so that instead of those copies being of all 
others the most faithful, they soon became imperfect, 
scarcely legible, and consequently, useless. 

In this business, as in all the Inspector-General's pro- 
posed reforms of management, he looked as much on the 
advantage of bringing merit to light as to that which 
could arise from discovering the reverse. In point of fact, 
a decree of emulation was excited in the timber-masters of 
the time which fully justified his expectations on that 
score, though unfortunately it was followed by no rewards ; 
but he had the satisfaction of receiving assurances that by 
his means most important savings of timber were effected, 
and still continued to be so, as long as he had opportunities 
of witnessing conversion. Of late years the stringency of 
his regulations has been gradually done away with. Kespon- 
sibility, instead of being individual, has been divided 
amongst several new officers ; and those parts of the evi- 
dence given to the Select Committee of the House of Com- 
mons on Navy Estimates, 1848, indicate that extravagance 
again prevails, both in the conversion of timber and in its 
application to use. 

The plan of introducing a clerk chosen by some uncer- 
tain mode to witness the receipt of timber was looked upon 
as a fanciful expedient ; but the fact was, that however 
conscientious superior officers (such as storekeepers and 
clerks of the survey) might be, yet the storekeeper was 
often charged with stores without any previous survey of 
them, and when deficiencies were discovered the facility 
with which it was customary to discharge him of them 
was notorious. The Inspector-General, in one of his offi- 
cial statements, said, "In point of fact, that there are 
abuses in the receipt of stores I am well assured. I have 
heard that timber or plank to the value of some thousand 


pounds has been paid for as if received in a dockyard, 
although articles to so great an amount never appeared 
but on paper. I am confident that such a practice has 
existed." Of these assertions no denial was ever attempted, 
either by the Comptroller of the Navy, the Navy Board, or 
the dockyard officers, yet all these officers had objected 
to the Inspector-General's representations of the need of 
correcting mismanagement and abuse, and were still ready 
to object to all his suggestions of improvement. He was 
accused of putting leading questions to underlings, so as 
to obtain false information from them. On the 19th De- 
cember 1801, for instance, the Comptroller particularly 
said that the Inspector-General " got the underlings about 
him without the knowledge of their superiors." This was 
on the occasion of his acquainting the Comptroller that in 
Deptford yard it was the practice to receive mast sticks 
for 20-inch masts as sticks for 21 -inch masts, and thereby 
to authorise a proportionately higher price for them. The 
Comptroller said that " when this information was obtained 
the master shipwright should have been there." The 
Inspector-General replied, "The master shipwright was 
there, the storekeeper was there, the clerk of the cheque 
was there, two assistants were there, the treasurer was 
there, and the clerk of the cheque's clerks and the store- 
keeper's clerks were there — is that enough, or should any 
more have been present ? " The Comptroller bit his lips, 
and said, " When the Inspector-General had given forms 
for keeping accounts, he hoped he would tell them where 
to buy timber." 

The Admiralty Board consisted at this time partly of 
old members and partly of new Lords, these being such as 
Lord St. Vincent had selected from amongst the naval 
officers in whom he had confidence. Mr. Nepean on 
one occasion told the Inspector-General that the Board 
thought him "wrong, very wrong — except, indeed, the new 
ones ; these were Trowbridge, and Markham, and Tucker 3 



and Lord St. Vincent ; it might please them, it was true ; 
but the Board thought it wrong." This was in reference 
to letters of the Inspector-General pointing out instances 
of mismanagement, particularly on the contract made by 
the Navy Board for the carriage of beech timber to Ports- 
mouth dockyard. The Inspector-General replied that 
"it was his business to find fault — it was what his situa- 
tion had been instituted for ; but if Mr. Nepean would tell 
him how he should write, he would do so accordingly." 
Mr. Nepean was indeed placed in circumstances of diffi- 
culty. He had been all along strenuous in his endeavours 
to introduce all of the improvements suggested by the 
Inspector- General ; he had adopted all which related to 
management ; but during Earl Spencer's administration 
the endeavour had been to introduce them without injury 
to the civil servants of the department, particularly so as 
not to imply any want of probity, or otherwise to implicate 
their moral conduct. Now the sea Lords, with what was 
called quarter-deck habits, were too much inclined to im- 
pute all imperfections to interested motives rather than 
to a vicious system, and to punish with all the severity of 
naval discipline. 

One of the letters that had been especially objected to 
by the old members of the Admiralty Board was that of 
the 30th August 1801, in which he had said that in the 
course of his investigations respecting the management 
of timber, he had found that the Navy Board, by virtue of 
several Acts of Parliament, were empowered to superintend 
the preservation of growing timber in some of his Majesty's 
forests, but that " this salutary interference on their part 
has fallen almost wholly into disuse ; so much so, indeed, 
that on inquiry at the Navy Office for a certain Act of Par- 
liament mentioned by one of the purveyors as forming the 
basis of his duty, the very existence of the Act did not 
seem to be known at the Navy Office ;" and particularis- 
ing various other sources of information, he added, that 


e *' serious evils are said to arise to his Majesty's naval 
service from the present neglected state of his Majesty's 
forests" — "that by a more careful attention to the exist- 
ing laws and orders respecting the forests in question, a 
much more abundant supply of timber for naval purposes 
might be obtained from them, so much so, that in future 
they might be made to afford three-fourths of the total 
quantity actually consumed in all of his Majesty's dock- 
yards ; and having reason to believe that even immediately 
the New Forest might afford as much beech timber as the 
service of this dockyard requires, as also an additional 
quantity of oak." It does not appear in what respect this 
letter could have been deemed offensive — unless, indeed, 
members of the Navy Board should have so keenly felt 
their neglect of the royal forests as to regard the mere 
asking for Acts of Parliament as a reproach to them. The 
Inspector-General's object was to concert with competent 
persons some means by which those forests might be for 
the future so managed as to afford the supply of which 
they are capable ; but it would seem that although more 
recently Sir W. Symonds has pointed out various particu- 
lars that might practically be of good effect, yet of late 
years the management in regard to them has been even 
worse than it was when the Inspector-General requested 
this information. 

Having had occasion to notice, verbally, some of the 
improprieties in the mode of providing this costly article 
of store, as well as in the management of it, Lord St. Vin- 
cent requested the Inspector-General to draw up a written 
statement of the most prominent objections to the current 
practice; this was done accordingly in February 1802. 
This paper not having been officially sent to the Board is 
not on record in the Admiralty books ; it points out inat- 
tentions which have at all times been but too prevalent, 
in regard to the provision of naval stores of every descrip- 
tion as well as of timber. 

p 3 


Flattering as was the dependence which the First Lord 
placed in the Inspector-General, and great as was the sup- 
port afforded him, yet it was with extreme difficulty that he 
could regulate his conduct in such a manner as that, whilst 
indicating instances of mismanagement, he should avoid 
imputing blame to individuals. By some old members of 
the Admiralty, and by the whole of the Navy Board, he 
was looked upon as acting in a spirit hostile to them per- 
sonally ; whilst by his moderation he often incurred the 
displeasure of his superiors. 

The letter on beech timber, addressed privately to Lord 
St. Vincent, as being a recent instance of the frequent 
oversights in making contracts and providing stores, was 
returned to the Inspector-General with the command to 
address it officially to the Secretary of the Admiralty, be- 
cause he was desirous that instances of mismanagement 
should stand on official record. The letter, when addressed 
to Lord St. Vincent, had been prefaced with a request 
that it might be " understood that it is not my intention 
to impute blame to any particular individuals who may 
happen to have had a part in the direction of the business 
in question, persuaded as I am that however injurious to 
the public service may be the instances of abuse and mis- 
management I shall have to bring forward, it would 
appear, on a full investigation, that they had been the 
natural consequences of defects in the system of manage- 
ment, rather than of any specific misconduct on the 
part of the persons employed, and that there is every 
reason to be assured that, — by making such changes in the 
system of management as that the scrutiny of all com- 
mercial as well as operative transactions shall be com- 
mitted to the charge of persons distinct from those to 
whom the execution is intrusted, that the due execution 
of every business shall be committed to the stimulatiDg 
influence of individual responsibility, and the accounts 
of all transactions kept in such manner as to bring their 


comparative economy under observation, — all such abuses 
would in future cease of course." 

But Lord St. Vincent was impeded continually by the 
opposition of the inferior Board, particularly by the Comp- 
troller of the Navy, who really w^as of opinion that the 
authorities as then constituted were competent to a due 
and economical management of naval business. There 
have been many changes since his time, but they have all 
of them deviated further from the rules by which good 
management might be expected. There is not, at this 
moment, any scrutiny as to either commercial or manu- 
facturing concerns, no individual responsibility, no ac- 
counts that bring comparative economy under observation. 
Much has of late been brought before the public as to 
abuses in the naval department, but abuse is a misnomer ; 
extravagances there are, but of all that have been exhi- 
bited there is not one of them that had not been pre- 
viously specified by Sir Samuel Bentham, accompanied by 
proposals for remedying the evils ; and, to take the words 
of the King in Council, as they were " founded on prin- 
ciples of acknowledged efficacy," there is good reason to 
conclude that if they had been adopted, they would by this 
time have been the means of saving many millions of the 
public money. 

In January 1802, the Inspector-General requested per- 
mission to obtain certain kinds of information direct from 
the dockyard officers. The Comptroller attacked him on 
this score, saying that he wanted to correspond with the 
dockyard officers without the knowledge of the Navy 
Board. To repudiate this accusation, he induced the 
Comptroller to read the letter itself — the Comptroller 
then said he had been told so. Thus was every act of the 
Inspector-General misrepresented. He replied to the Comp- 
troller, " that his object in asking to correspond with the 
dockyard officers was to save the time and trouble of a 
circuitous communication. Was he, when at a dockyard, 

P 4 


and wanting information from an officer on the spot, to 
have it sent first to the Navy Board and then to the Ad- 
miralty before it could reach him ? Was this the readiest 
way of doing business ? " 

On this day (22nd January) Sir Thomas Trowbridge 
came into the Admiralty, where were some of the Lords, 
the Comptroller, and the Inspector-General. Sir Thomas 
declared that " all the master shipwrights ought to be 
hanged, every one of them, without exception." This 
exclamation had been in consequence of some particulars 
respecting job-notes at Sheerness. It is true that in this 
respect the abuses were enormous. The Inspector-Greneral 
had officially pointed them out, and the remedy for the 
evil was amongst the improvements that were in progress 
of establishment by the new regulations. Surely the pre- 
venting the possibility of abuse by doing away with ficti- 
tious job-notes altogether, as the Inspector-Greneral had 
proposed, was likely to be a more efficacious remedy than 
the hanging of all the half-dozen master shipwrights. 

About this time great abuses came to light in regard to 
extra time set down to men of Plymouth dockyard ; and 
in consequence some members of the Navy Board were 
going to that port with " a determination to turn out" 
some of the officers and clerks. In conversation with Mr. 
Tucker on the 29th, the Inspector-General could not help 
observing that if they punished inferiors, they ought to go 
further ; there was not a single officer in that yard, or at the 
Navy Board unimplicated, " Eesident Commissioner, Navy 
Board, all of them." But it appeared " that the}' do not 
like to go higher than dockyard officers." 

On the 18th May the Inspector-Greneral learnt that 
an order had been given " for discharging shipwrights in 
dockyards, and first by superannuating those who are 
past their labour." A list of no more than twelve came 
from Plymouth yard, being those only who had (/}>}>/ied 
for superannuation. To make up the number of dismissals, 


the Navy Board intended to discharge the last entered ; — 
of course, the young men. The Comptroller showed this 
list to Lord St. Vincent. (i What," said his Lordship, 
" are there no more than twelve old men in Plymouth 
yard ? " " No, my lord." " Then I'll go to Plymouth 
myself." His Lordship then said he should take an Ad- 
miralty Board with him, that a Navy Board should also 
go, and he supposed the Comptroller would go himself. 
The next day Mr. Tucker told the Inspector-Greneral that 
Lord St. Vincent had determined to have a commission to 
examine into the abuses and mismanagement : that when 
he visited the dockyards he would not enter into abuses, 
but merely look about him. Thus originated the Commis- 
sion of Naval Inquiry, a commission which, in its several 
reports, brought such enormous abuses to light. 

A letter had been written to the Inspector-Greneral on 
the 28th of August of the preceding year, and then signed 
by the Secretary of the Admiralty ; but it was not forwarded 
to him till the 14th of March of the year 1802. It directed 
him to reply to the observations of the Navy Board on the 
subject of his letter concerning the extravagance resulting 
from carriage of beech timber. The Navy Board charged 
him with having " endeavoured to prejudice the minds of 
the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, by laying before 
them a 'partial representation of a transaction calculated 
to make an unfavourable impression, without having made 
the least previous inquiry into the real circumstances of 
the case;" adding further that "had he done so, he would 
have found that his whole statement originated in error? 

In relation to this accusation, the Inspector-Greneral, on 
the 15th April, informed their Lordships that he had made 
many inquiries, and had obtained much information in 
consequence. This letter afforded convincing proof, that 
the transaction had been minutely investigated previously 
to his first statement of it, and that his statement had 
originated, not in error, but in facts officially recorded. 


Observations necessarily introduced in this communication 
exhibited other instances of improvidence of that Board as 
a body ; but the Inspector-General added, " that had the 
blame appeared to him really to attach to any one, either 
at the dockyard or at the Navy Office, as it certainly is not 
my duty to be the censor of any one in either of those 
situations, I should not have presumed to take up their 
Lordships' time with any observations on this point ;" but 
that " whatever be the management, the duties of the per- 
sons concerned are so ill defined, and their instructions so 
insufficient, that there is no one individual on whom the 
blame can be fixed." 

It may seem irrelevant to the memoirs of Sir Samuel 
Bentham to enter into the particulars of this transaction; 
but it must be considered that down to this very moment, 
(for want of some such system of management and of ac- 
counts as that he advocated,) not, as he said, " hundreds of 
thousands," but " millions " are imperceptibly lost annually 
in the civil branch of the naval service, so that his endea- 
vours to produce a salutary reform of management become 
a very prominent and important feature of the services 
which he rendered. The ill-will necessarily resulting to 
him from a variety of persons, in consequence of his bring- 
ing such malpractices to view, would have deterred men 
less conscientious and less persevering. Indeed, much as 
he possessed these desirable qualities, it has been seen that 
during Lord Spencer's administration he sometimes would 
have sunk under opposition, but for his support; and now 
Lord St. Vincent's confidential secretary, Mr. Tucker, was 
employed to assure him of the support of the superior 

In October the service sustained what proved to be an 
irreparable loss in the death of Mr. Bunce, architect in 
the Inspector-General's office. Previously to the establish- 
ment of the office he had been employed by Sir Samuel 
in the year 1794 in drawing some of his machinery, and 


in that part of the designs for a Panopticon prison which 
required the practical skill and experience of an architect. 
Mr. Bunce's knowledge of the details of his profession, his 
taste, the information which he had acquired in Italy, his 
indefatigable industry and high character, led General 
Bentham to wish for his assistance ; and fortunately Mr. 
Bunce, from personal regard to the General, was induced 
to accept the office of architect. From first to last he had 
been most conscientious in the discharge of his public 
duty, and his death was occasioned by his zeal. He had 
attended at the different naval establishments during the 
whole of the visitation which was this year held by the 
Lords of the Admiralty, and his strength was already ex- 
hausted when he undertook the examination of the Isle of 
Grain. It was the most unhealthy season of the year ; he 
caught fever, and when recovering, as it was hoped, an 
unguarded expression in his presence, " that the service 
was suffering from his absence,"' brought on a relapse, 
under which he sank.* 

As the Inspector- General's plan for affording a fitting 
education to qualify young men for services in a naval ar- 
senal had not yet been carried into effect, he devised a plan 
for bringing up working apprentices which should be less 
objectionable than the existing mode. In his proposal of 
it, on the 22nd November, he recommended it only as a 
provisional measure. His proposal was adopted, having 
proved, as he said, " less costly than the then existing 
mode, considerably more advantageous to the public ser- 
vice, and more generally beneficial to the deserving arti- 

* See before, p. 163. 



Tour to visit Cordage Manufactories, January 1803 — Report, and Adop- 
tion of his Proposals — Treatment of Workpeople in Factories — Services 
of Mr. Brunei in the Introduction of Block Machinery — Method of 
rewarding Inventors — Advantages of Non-recoil Guns — Abuses in 
Job Payments — Proposals for a Government Ropery, 1804 — Contracts 
for Timber — Opposition of the Navy Board — Arming of the Mercantile 
Marine — Timber Coynes — Dockyard Machinery at Portsmouth — 
Mission to build Ships in Russia, 1805 — Arrival at Cronstadt — Diffi- 
culties of his Task — Opposition of the Emperor — Illness — His Pro- 
posals rejected by the Emperor — Importation of Copper for Sheathing 
— Detention at St. Petersburg during the Winter — Panopticon of 
Ochta — Departure from St. Petersburg — Revel — Carlscrona — Return 
to England — The Office of Inspector- General of Naval Works merged 
in the Navy Board. 

In the course of the visitation of the dockyards, the Earl 
of St. Vincent and the other Lords of the Admiralty 
became fully convinced of the expediency of introducing 
machinery worked by inanimate force to a great extent, 
as pointed out by the Inspector-General. As he had 
already overcome opposition to the introduction of steam- 
engines for working wood and metal, and now contem- 
plated the still more important measure of manufacturing 
sailcloth and cordage on government account, he obtained 
permission (January 1803) to visit manufactories in the 
north, particularly of cordage. 

He was fortunate in already possessing the friendship 
of some of the greatest manufacturers of the kingdom, 
and by their means obtained introductions to ever}' 
manufactory which it seemed desirable to visit. He was 


much indebted to many with whom he thus made ac- 
quaintance for the readiness with which they afforded 
him means of examining every detail of their business, 
frequently giving him access even to their account-books, 
and requiring their subordinates to furnish every required 
information. He thus visited Birmingham and the manu- 
factories in its vicinity, including Soho ; also Liverpool, 
Warrington, Manchester, Stockport, Leeds, Sunderland, 
Newcastle, Castle Eden, Sheffield and Rotherham, Derby, 
Warrington, Liverpool, Shrewsbury, Colebrook Dale, Co- 
ventry, and many other manufacturing towns. The seven 
weeks that he employed in his inquiries, though in the 
depth of winter, were fully occupied from daylight in the 
morning till nine or ten o'clock in the evening. For a 
part of this tour he invited Mr. Brunei to accompany him, 
in order to give him an insight into such management 
as Sir Samuel wished to introduce at Portsmouth. Mr. 
Brunei, not only at the time, but nve-and-thirty years 
afterwards, expressed in writing his obligation for this 
favour. Mr. Goodrich, the mechanist, also accompanied 
him during the whole of the tour. 

On the 18th of February, Sir Samuel, in an official 
letter to the Secretary of the Admiralty, informed their 
Lordships that he had visited different establishments 
where cordage was manufactured by machinery, the result 
of which was that he had " seen reason to be entirely 
convinced that cordage of all descriptions, from the smallest 
twine to the largest cable, may be advantageously manu- 
factured by means of machinery, such as may be set in 
motion by inanimate force ; and this, with regard to all 
the operations requisite, from the first preparation of the 
raw material to the completion of the article for use." He 
stated that the principal advantages of such a manufactory 
would be a saving of half the expense of manufacturing, 
that the inconvenience then experienced of obtaining a 
sufficiency of ropemakers would be done away with, that 


the quantity of cordage might be variable according to 
the demand, but above all, that an uniform superiority 
of cordage would be insured. 

He endeavoured to prevail on various manufacturers 
to attempt the weaving canvas entirely without starch 
or other dressing, but failed in every instance excepting in 
that of Mr. Scarth, at Castle Eden. In this factory Mr. 
Scarth had introduced an arrangement of the warp which 
placed it in the loom so that the roughness of the yarn 
was laid in one and the same direction, whereby great 
facility was obtained in beating up the fabric. This pecu- 
liarity was at once seen to favour the weaving without 
starch, and Mr. Scarth undertook to attempt making 
some webs of canvas without the use of any stiffening 

In the course of this tour many opportunities oc- 
curred of comparing the influence of management on 
the well-being of the workpeople. As an instance of 
care towards apprentices lodged, clothed, and fed by the 
master, the flax- spinning mills of Mr. Bage, at Shrews- 
bury, maybe honourably cited. The 125 apprentice girls 
were strong, and in fact healthy, perhaps beyond example 
in any employ or rank of life, though their business of 
tending the machines kept them in a quick walk the 
whole of the working time. The extraordinary healthi- 
ness and apparent happiness of these girls induced par- 
ticular inquiry respecting them. The women who had 
the care and direction of them when not at work, 
afforded every information requested, the dietary regu- 
lations, the account -book of actual expenses, &c. With- 
out this minute examination it could not have been 
credited that these hard-working, growing girls, from 
fifteen to eighteen or nineteen years of age, could have 
been fed at an average of 6d. a day, having meat thrice a 
week. In the same establishment a few girls were like- 
wise employed in light work at day pay. The contrast 


was striking ; these latter were dirty, ragged, sickly-looking. 
Both at Messrs. Strutt's and Mr. Bage's, requisite means 
were taken to afford school instruction. 

Sir Samuel's object in acquainting himself with actual 
good management of apprentices was preparatory to enter- 
ing: into the details of naval seminaries on a large scale, 
still intended by Government, in conformity to his former 
proposal, and to which his attention was soon afterwards 
particularly called by Lord St. Vincent. 

In April, Mr. Brunei having solicited the Admiralty to 
grant him remuneration for the labour and expense which 
he had incurred in the invention and perfecting machinery 
for making blocks, their Lordships commanded the In- 
spector-Greneral to consider and report what might be 
proper to be done on the subject of that application. 

He was aware that few instances were on record in 
which remuneration had been given expressly for im- 
provement, although, in point of fact, unperceived reward 
was habitually afforded, to a very great amount, concealed 
by a contract for the supply of improved articles. This 
mode of remuneration was, in his opinion, highly objec- 
tionable, as being nowise proportioned to benefit derived 
to the service. He had long had in view a mode of 
reward sufficient to the inventor, yet not beyond its value 
to the public. 

It appeared from the Secretary's letter that no doubt 
was entertained of the expediency of allowing some com- 
pensation to Mr. Brunei, and that it was only as to its 
amount, and the most eligible mode, that Sir Samuel's 
opinion was required. On this supposition he devised the 
details of such a mode as should prove satisfactory on that 
occasion, " but which should also be calculated to afford 
encouragement to persons of ability in general for the 
production of other inventions tending to the diminution 
of dockyard expenses, while at the same time such remu- 
neration should not hold up a precedent whereon claims 


for compensation could be founded, in any case where the 
reality of the advantages had not been previously ascer- 
tained." This new mode was that the amount of com- 
pensation should be proportioned to the amount of benefit 
derived from the use of the invention, namely, a sum 
equal to the savings made by Government for some 
specific period, and which he ventured to propose. 

In favour of such a mode of compensation, he observed 
" that the greater the sum it might be found eventually to 
amount to, the greater in the same proportion will be the 
advantage which the service will derive from the inven- 
tion ; " and that the compensation, however great, would 
be no neiv expense, but only the continuation, for a short 
and limited time, of an habitual expense, which would 
hereafter be saved to the public. 

It has been, and continues to be, supposed that the 
whole of the machinery employed for making blocks was 
the invention of Mr. Brunei. The machines for shaping 
the shells were indeed so, though they had already been 
clearly described in Bentham's specification of 1793, but 
several official documents prove that most of the opera- 
tions were from the first performed by machines of the 
Inspector-General's invention, in many instances by ma- 
chines which he had had at work previously to his 
appointment to office. Amongst them were those of which 
he submitted drawings on the 1st of June 1802, as 
"forming part of the machinery for working in wood." 
In the same letter he proposed " that these engines 
should be set up in Plymouth dockyard immediately, to be 
worked by the steam-engine," particularly specifying that, 
independently of other uses, " they are, as it were, neces- 
sary for the cutting out the wood to the proper scantlings 
and lengths for shell of blocks" So also it appears from 
various documents that other machines were Sir Samuel's, 
such as that for forming wooden pins, an apparatus for 
sawing timber, turning lathes, a circular saw contrived to 


cut at pleasure to different angles, and which was em- 
ployed in the wood mills for cutting off the angles from 
blocks previously to shaping them. In regard to this and 
other machinery being then the Inspector-General's pri- 
vate property, it was arranged with the Admiralty that 
their value should be estimated, and that thev should 
be charged by Mr. Lloyd, and paid for to a millwright, 
who had been trained by the Inspector-General and em- 
ployed by him in making them. They were thus furnished 
to Government at a price much below what they had really 
cost, to the pecuniary loss of the Inspector-General ; while 
he has also been deprived of the credit of their invention. 
Continued naval successes by degrees brought con- 
viction to the Lords of the Admiralty of the superiority 
of the principle of non-recoil for mounting carronades. 
At Copenhagen, Lord Nelson placed the Arrow and 
the Dart opposite the Crown Batter}^, of fifty-two 
guns, believed to be the most formidable of the defen- 
sive works of the town. " He " (Lord Nelson) " said 
to me that he considered them to be of more effective 
force than the 90-gun ships." It is evident that he did 
so, as he placed them against those very formidable bat- 
teries. The Lieutenant of the Dart, on being questioned, 
in July of this year (1803), affirmed that " ohe guns 
stood well — no breeching was broke — that he could 
continue to fire twice or three times as quick as other 
guns, and was two hours and a half in action with 
the guns all perfect." The Admiralty had also at this 
time received details of the ordnance fixed on this prin- 
ciple which had effected such pre-eminent service at the 
siege of Acre. That Sir Sidney Smith considered the 
success of this ordnance as consequent on Sir Samuel's 
introduction of non-recoil, is evident from his letter of 
7th March 1803. It says, " My dear Sir— I have felt it 
incumbent on me to recommend Mr. E. Spurring, late 
our builder at Constantinople, and Mr. James Bray, to 



Lord St. Vincent, for promotion in their line ; at the same 
time I feel it due to you to let that recommendation 
pass through you. I have therefore given the letter in 
their favour to Mr. Spurring (who has the advantage of 
being known, and I hope approved of by you), under a 
flying seal, for your perusal, previous to its delivery." 
Sir Samuel learnt from them all particulars of the fitting 
the Tiger's carronades on his principle, and the great 
benefit derived from it in mounting ordnance for the 
defence of Acre. 

In August of this year the Commission of Naval In- 
quiry requested the Inspector-General to state to them 
any " irregularities, frauds, or abuses in any of the Naval 
departments at Plymouth during the last ten years." He 
did accordingly communicate information of the nature 
.required, for which, on the 13th September, he received 
the thanks of their Chairman (Mr. Nicholls), who, at the 
end of November, had an interview with the Inspector- 
Greneral for the purpose of obtaining further particulars. 
In regard to the pay of workmen, the Inspector-General 
foresaw that the new establishments for working in wood 
and metal by machinery would afford opportunity of 
introducing the improvements which he projected without 
disturbing the general business of an arsenal. 

Bespecting pay by job, he furnished to the Commission 
much information as an example of the thoughtless ex- 
travagance so frequently observable in Navy Board orders. 
He informed the Commission that in the repairing of 
boats — a thirty-four foot launch, for example — the Navy 
Board regulation required that for the smallest repair 
of such a boat no less a sum was to be set down in 
the books than 5/. 2s. ; if that sum should be found in- 
adequate, the repair was to be denominated a middling 
repair, and 11/. Is. was the exact sum to be set down, 
neither more nor less. Again, if that sum were insuffi- 
cient, the repair was to be denominated a large repair, 


and although the value of the work done should have ex- 
ceeded the 117. Is. only by a few shillings,, the expense was 
to have appeared in the accounts to have been doubled, 
and set down at 227. 2s. The building a new boat of the 
same size and description amounted, he informed them, 
to no more than 217. 12s. 6d.. 

Such a regulation appeared to the Commissioners so 
absurd, that they entertained, and expressed in writing, 
doubts of the Inspector-General's accuracy. He therefore 
obtained and communicated to them copies of official 
documents establishing the fact, and job work was in con- 
sequence abolished. 

The first important proposal of the year 1804 was the 
detailing his plan for a ropery. Many of the members of 
the Board of Admiralty, in the course of their sea-service, 
had witnessed the frequent imperfections of cordage, both 
in quality of material and in manufacture, and felt assured 
that they were not likely to be corrected otherwise than 
by the establishment of such a manufactory as he pro- 
posed. His proposal was therefore approved by the 
Admiralty, and on their application to the Lords of the 
Privy Council, the erection of this ropery was sanctioned 
by the King in Council, and ordered to be carried into im- 
mediate execution. 

The strictness required by the New Regulations in the 
receipt of timber, that it should be in conformity to con- 
tract, had been greatly adverse to the interest of contrac- 
tors. They had been habitually permitted to deliver 
more or less of timber in quantity, and of a value far 
inferior to that specified in contracts. Discontinuance 
of these abuses of course occasioned discussions between 
contractors and the new timber-masters, and often ill- 
will towards them. Complaints were made to the Navy 
Board, who thought proper to make in consequence an 
advance of no less than twenty-five per cent, on the 
contract prices, and other alterations in favour of con- 



tractors. The Board also, on the part of the timber 
merchants, addressed complaints to the Admiralty, sup- 
porting the merchants against the timber-masters. The 
Admiralty were not deceived, but extracts from Mr. Mars- 
den's letter to the Navy Board, 13th May 1804, written 
by their Lordships 1 express command, will best exhibit 
the opposition of that Board to this very important 
improvement in management, and the light in which 
that opposition was viewed by them. Mr. Marsden's 
letter begins by stating that the Navy Board had not 
transmitted certain papers which their Lordships had 
called for, and goes on to say : " The replies, however, 
which their Lordships have received from the master ship- 
wrights and timber-masters of the several yards, give the 
most satisfactory as well as positive denial and refutation 
of the assertions of the timber merchants that rigour or 
( vexatious strictness and severity ' is exercised on the receipt 
of timber, or that they feel the responsibility of their 
situations in the manner you describe, far less the smallest 
apprehension of losing their places ; and, moreover, their 
replies fully prove that the root of the evil does not lie in 
the minds of either the timber-masters or master ship- 
wrights, as you state, but in those ivho encourage a recur- 
rence to the former system of receiving timber, which, 
however beneficial to the contractors, ivas ominous to the 
public ; and with this true state of the case before their 
Lordships, it is with astonishment they reperuse the un- 
founded calumny against the master shipwrights and 
timber-masters (who naturally have a claim to your pro- 
tection in the just execution of their duty), which you 
have thought proper to transmit to their Lordships, to 
which no other construction can be given than that of your 
having also the desire that the former system of receiving 
timber should be again resorted to, under which the re- 
ceiving officers, on the part of the Crown, were, in fact, 
the agents of the timber merchants." Their Lordships 


then go on to state what they consider as proofs " of the 
present disposition of the Navy Board," favourable to con- 
tractors, but injurious to the Crown, saying that " their 
Lordships can be no longer at a loss to account for the 
backwardness of the timber merchants in furnishing sup- 
plies, when they are permitted to entertain the hope that 
the yards will be again abandoned to their undue influ- 
ence, and the officers be calumniated for the honest dis- 
charge of their duty to the public." 

Mr. Marsden terminates his letter thus : " Their Lord- 
ships command me to conclude by observing that you 
would not have presumed to use the language with which 
you have thought proper to close your said letter, had you 
not confided in that forbearance which you have expe- 
rienced on the exposure of the negligence, fallacy, and 
fraud which have pervaded and been fostered by the de- 
partment under your direction, both at home and abroad, 
by which the public has suffered immensely, and which 
would not have passed so long without receiving all the 
notice it merited, had not their Lordships been impressed 
with the belief that the consequence which must result 
from the impartial judgment of the legislature on the facts 
that have been and will be laid before them, would operate 
more to the benefit of the public, and be a more useful 
lesson to future members of the Navy Board, than any 
measures which their Lordships might have pursued to 
mark their disapprobation." 

The Inspector-Greneral had not been informed that such 
a letter had been in contemplation, but a copy of it was 
afterwards furnished him, attested by Mr. Nelson of the 
Navy Office. It may be said to have been unfortunate for 
the service as well as to himself. It greatly increased the 
rancour of the Navy Board, as a Board, towards himself, 
for it was well known that most of the facts that had 
been, or were intended to be laid before the legislature, 
had been either furnished by him, or that he had pointed 

Q 3 


out to their Lordships and to the Commission of Naval 
Inquiry, the quarters from which such facts were to be ob- 
tained. It was further known that he had for years, with 
the approbation and at the desire of two successive 
Administrations, been collecting data, on which to re- 
model the Navy Board itself, so as to render it a really 
efficient and responsible Board, by clearly defining its 
duties and rendering them practicable, by freeing it from 
those members who could not be supposed competent, by 
simplifying the mode of keeping accounts, and especially 
by introducing to a great extent individual responsibility. 

On the appointment of the new Ministry, the Inspector- 
Greneral had the satisfaction to find that the success which 
had attended every improvement he had proposed, had 
impressed the new Board of Admiralty with a most 
gratifying sense of the services which he had rendered. 
One of the new members, Admiral Grambier, who had 
himself had opportunities of witnessing those improve- 
ments, received Sir Samuel soon after his appointment, in 
an official private conference. On this occasion the Ad- 
miral expressed himself desirous of doing everything to 
forward any business which the Inspector- Greneral might 
have to recommend. He replied that " he should attack 
their Lordships on the armament of small vessels, adding 
that his plans in regard to them had nothing new in them 
noiv — they had been put to the test of experience already." 

This assertion arose from the protection which had lately 
been afforded to trade, at his suggestion, by arming coasting 
vessels with non-recoil carronades, those vessels, notwith- 
standing, still carrying on their usual traffic. 

The Channel and the sea off the east coast had, at the 
beginning of this century, been infested with numbers of 
well-appointed French privateers, that took our trading 
vessels when venturing to sea without powerful convoy, 
whilst at the same time the naval military force of the 
country was not sufficient to afford convoy equal to the de- 
mands of the mercantile marine. These circumstances had 


imparted a peculiar interest to General Bentham's plan of 
giving to trading vessels themselves a powerful armament. 
It happened that several of the Berwick smacks which had 
been armed under the former administration as he had 
proposed, were now lying off St. Catharine's ; amongst 
others, was the Queen Charlotte packet. This vessel, as 
appears by a letter the original of which had been en- 
closed to the Admiralty, had had off Cromer an engage- 
ment, on the 27th January, with a brig privateer of four- 
teen guns, direct from port and full of men, in which 
encounter the Queen had been victorious. She had but 
six carronades, 18-pounders, but they were fixed non-recoil, 
and two long 4-pounders. The master of the packet, Mr. 
Nelson, affirmed that " he now considers his vessel as su- 
perior to any of the gunboats — that he actually gives 
protection to other trading vessels. He has now six 
carronades on board, and would willingly take four more if 
he could but have secure protections for eight men ; for 
that, although he has protections for thirteen men, yet 
he has always some pressed away from him." 

For some time back one of the Inspector-Greneral's im- 
portant inventions, that of coynes for connecting timber, had 
been ordered for general use in the dockyards, and an intel- 
ligent shipwright officer, Mr. Helby, had at his suggestion 
been sent to the several dockyards for the purpose of ex- 
hibiting the uses of these coynes, and the manner of 
employing them. To the credit of officers of all ranks 
in the dockyards, instead of reluctance to be taught by 
one of an inferior grade, they all manifested the greatest- 
goodwill, ordering bowsprits, masts, &c. for large ships to be 
prepared according to Mr. Helby's wish. In fact, dock- 
yard officers in general were no longer averse to the intro- 
duction of his improvements. Their opportunities of wit- 
nessing the success of those already in use, led to conviction 
in their minds that the adoption of his measures would be 


The scarcity of oak for shipbuilding had iLduce 1 the 
Admiralty to order ten frigates to be built of fir by the 
same designs, two at each of the five dockyards. The In- 
spector-Greneral, on hearing of this order, learnt that little 
had yet been done to those in some of the dockyards, and 
considering this a favourable opportunity for exhibiting 
the advantages of the innovations in regard to strength, 
made in his experimental vessels, he, 4th August, sub- 
mitted to the Admiralty the expediency of adopting some 
of the improvements in regard to the arrangement and 
mechanical combination of the parts, such " as were intro- 
duced in the construction of the several vessels built under 
his direction, and of which the efficacy in regard to strength 
had been proved by more than seven years' experience." 
This was indeed an extraordinarily favourable opportunity 
of putting those expedients to severe test, as these fir frigates, 
being of inferior materials, were expected to be of short 
duration. He proposed that at each dockyard one of the 
frigates should be constructed as usual ; the other as he 
should propose, whereby the comparative duration of the 
two modes of structure would be fairly tested. His proposal 
was adopted ; but on inquiry it was found that too much 
had already been done in the way of preparation to admit 
of his improvements being introduced excepting in the 
dockyards of Deptford and Woolwich. 

Ever since his appointment he had been investigating 
the means by which success in private manufactories is 
obtained, and whether similar good management could 
be introduced in that great manufactory, a naval arsenal. 
Fully aware too that the manufactories which he had 
established could never attain the perfection in point of 
economy that he had aspired to give them, unless they 
were assimilated to private concerns, he had, from the 
first use of his machinery in Portsmouth yard, by de- 
grees introduced many regulations differing materially 
from dockyard practice. A good deal of work had for 


some time been done there by bis machinery and by 
that of which Mr. Brunei had the charge ; but it was not 
till the 19th February 1805, that he was enabled to 
acquaint the Admiralty that the whole of the machinery 
ordered according to his proposals was so nearly ready as 
to render it necessary that master workmen, and others 
for the management and use of it should be provided. 
He therefore requested that he might be authorised to 
select and engage, in addition to the few hands already 
employed, such artificers and others as might appear ne- 
cessary for setting the whole of the machinery to work, 
and proposed to spend some time at Portsmouth for the 
purpose of having immediate communication with the 
master workmen and others engaged in these businesses. 

This proposal having been referred to the Navy Board, 
the Comptroller and a committee of it, then on a visitation 
to Portsmouth yard, stated in their minute, 27th February, 
that they had consulted the master shipwright, who pro- 
fessed himself unacquainted with the nature of the works 
to be carried on by means of the machinery. The com- 
mittee did not see the possibility of the Board's com- 
plying with their Lordships' directions, and they saw 
no alternative but to adopt the proposition of General 
Bentham. This having been communicated by the Board 
to the Admiralty, their Lordships transmitted their report 
to the Inspector-Greneral, who in rep]y acquainted their 
Lordships that he should " hold himself responsible for not 
engaging or retaining a greater number " (of artificers 
and others) than would from time to time become really 
necessary for carrying " on the work with the greatest 
economy," &c. In consequence of which their Lordships, 
on the 30th March, gave their orders to place the three 
establishments under his management in conformity to 
the Navy Board's suggestions. 

Thus he became individually responsible for the whole 
direction and management of these establishments, not 


less than if they had been private concerns of his own 
and on his own private account. 

These establishments were watched from first to last 
with jealous eyes by a Board that had shown itself all along 
adverse to the measures which the Inspector-General had 
proposed ; they were watched too by the several con-< 
tractors whose interests were invaded by the introduction 
of these establishments. In consequence of his expe- 
rience, and of his extreme care in the formation of his plans, 
they all of them proved as perfect in execution as he had 
professed they would be. And as to his management in 
the outlay of money for wages or otherwise, although 
about a million sterling passed uncontrolled through his 
hands in relation to these three establishments, it never 
was in any instance surmised that he had misapplied a 
single sixpence, or had abused the confidence reposed in 

The use of the coynes of his invention was now be- 
coming general ; and in the course of his walks in the 
dockyard, his attention was particularly called by the 
master mastmaker to the perfection which they enabled 
him to give to the work in his department — indeed the 
success of the great variety of improvements which he 
had introduced here, cheered him and encouraged perse- 
verance in regard to his other plans, retarded as they were 
by the customary opposition of the Navy Board. 

Having at length fairly set the manufactories at Ports- 
mouth at work, he proceeded in June to Plymouth. 

His intention was, as that of the Admiralty had been, 
when he left town, that he should apply himself to the 
improvement of that dockyard. Immense sums had been 
lavished upon it, but unfortunately in conformity to plans 
framed more with a view to splendour than to use. Thus 
in many instances the new erections had rather impeded 
than facilitated the business of the port. Scarcely had he 
arrived when he was attacked by a fever caused by exces- 


sive exertion. On the 20th, orders were sent from the 
Admiralty, through their secretary, desiring his immediate 
return to town, and also the First Lord's private secretary 
te signified his Lordship's desire that " he " should return to 
town with as much expedition as possible." But he was 
too ill to attend to any business, and the letters were opened 
by his wife. On being made acquainted with the circum- 
stance, they expressed their regret at the state of his health, 
and added that it would not be requisite for him to pursue 
his journey, until he should be so far recovered as not to 
endanger a relapse. The evident desire for his speedy 
return induced him to set out for town on the very day he 
first left his bed. 

On his arrival in town, he immediately waited on Lord 
Barham, who announced that the duty on which it was 
wished to send him, was that of building ships of war in 
Russia for the service of this country, his Lordship and 
Mr. Pitt both considering him (the Inspector-General) as 
the most eligible person. In case of his acceptance of this 
service, it was wished that he should set out in a fortnight, 
and his answer was required on the following day. He 
was at the same time told that permission had already been 
received for building the ships in question, but that it 
would remain for him to treat with the persons in that 
country with whom it would be necessary to have inter- 
course, whether the Eussian Ministry or the merchants 
who might be found willing to contract, and that he would 
have to see that the ships were properly built. In the 
course of this conversation, Lord Barham mentioned of 
himself his supposition that he would be desirous of 
taking his wife. 

It happened at this particular time that a variety of 
circumstances could not but render him desirous of re- 
maining at home, especially the reluctance of his wife, 
added to his own, on account of the interruption which it 
would occasion in the education of his children. However, 


on his next interview, he expressed his willingness to un- 
dertake the mission, provided he were permitted to take 
his wife and family, and that an allowance were made 
sufficient to cover all his expenses. This was acceded to 
without the least hesitation, whilst in the course of con- 
versation many nattering expressions fell from his Lord- 
ship of his conviction that no other man was competent to 
this service ; but that in him were combined professional 
knowledge in naval architecture, scientific skill, personal 
acquaintance with the resources of Eussia, as well as with 
distinguished Russians ; while he was also regarded in the 
most favourable light by the Emperor himself. Archangel 
was the port which the Admiralty considered most suitable 
for the business in question, and the Inspector-General was 
directed to consider what persons would be required as 

The appropriate knowledge, probity, and other esti- 
mable qualities of Mr. Helby, then a quartermaster in 
Portsmouth dockyard, induced him to recommend this 
officer as his principal assistant, which was immediately 
acceded to. 

On the 2nd August he sailed in the Isabella, and, on his 
arrival at Cronstadt, was received with the most flattering 
marks of friendly distinction by the Commander of the Fleet 
and Port. He proceeded immediately to St. Petersburg, 
where he was greeted by old friends, high in power. But, 
to his astonishment and dismay, he learnt that what by 
the English Ministry had been considered as a cordial and 
full acquiescence in their wish to build ships in Russia, 
had been nothing more than a civil diplomatic reply to 
their application, and which he found had in fact been 
very far from a specific request. Under these circum- 
stances, his task was one of extreme difficulty. He how- 
ever determined to avail himself of all the personal interest 
which he possessed at St. Petersburg, in an endeavour to 
obtain for the Ministry of his own country the object of 


their wishes. Fortunately he had been directed to con- 
ciliate the Russian Court, and if possible to render him- 
self useful to the Russian Government, so that he had no 
hesitation in complying with the condition upon which the 
Minister of the Marine, Admiral TchitchagofT, at length 
gave his consent to the building of the ships. This con- 
dition was, that for every vessel laid down for the English 
Government, a similar one should be commenced for 
Russia ; that the Inspector-General should equally super- 
vise the one as the other during their construction, and 
that all of his improvements in naval construction should 
be introduced and exemplified in the ships for Russia — a 
condition highly flattering to him personally. In his first 
report to the Admiralty, he gave an account of his progress, 
of the difficulties which he had to surmount, and of the 
facilities at length afforded to him by the Admiral. 

In conformity with this arrangement, Admiral Tchitcha- 
gofT, in October 1805, prepared a paper for the Emperor, 
in which the above-mentioned particulars were stated, and 
the Admiral certainly exerted his best endeavours to obtain 
the confirmation of them. Unfortunately, his reluctance 
to acquiesce in the wishes of the British Government 
became but too apparent — yet at the same time he mani- 
fested his personal regard for Bentham, his conviction 
of his superior knowledge and abilities, his desire that 
many of the inventions and improvements of General 
Bentham should be introduced into the Russian service. 
Amongst other improvements the establishment of a manu- 
factory of cordage and sail cloth similar to that for which 
the Inspector-General had prepared plans in England, was 
early an object of Imperial solicitude, so that in December 
1805, the Minister of the Marine expressed a "wish to 
have a factory that would do from 100,000 < poods' to 
300,000 per annum." 

The Inspector-General continued strenuous in his en- 
deavours to obtain the Imperial authority which would 


sanction the favourable proposal of the Minister of the 
Marine, but all without avail ; and this, although several 
others of the ministers concurred with Admiral Tchitcha- 
gofT in the eligibility of the measure. At length, having 
understood that, on the 13th March 1806, the question had 
come before a Committee of the Ministers of the Crown, 
the Inspector-General went early to the Admiral on the 
following morning, for the purpose of learning the de- 
cision of that Committee. He found that " it had been 
determined against allowing vessels for the English service 
to be built at St. Petersburg ; that twelve Ministers were 
present at the Committee, that they were unanimous in 
favour of the measure, but that the Emperor himself 
(also present) had overruled them all, on the ground of 
the want of timber for their own use; that, however, 
the Emperor, as well as the several Ministers, had ex- 
pressed the greatest willingness to forward any plans of 
General Bentham for his private emolument in the intro- 
duction of improvements into their country; particularly 
they were anxious for a ropery, &c. &c." 

He went immediately to communicate this information 
to the Secretary of Legation, Mr. Stuart (afterwards 
Lord Stuart de Eothsay). It happened that the then 
Governor-General of the Crimea, General Fanshaw, was 
at this time at St. Petersburg, and frequently with the 
Emperor. As General Fanshaw was an old friend and 
companion in arms of General Bentham, frequent con- 
versations had taken place between them on the subject of 
this mission, and to Mr. Stuart's knowledge the Governor- 
General had regretted that the construction of the con- 
templated ships had not been proposed from the first to 
have been in the Crimea, where timber of superior quality 
might be obtained in abundance and at a low price, from 
the opposite shores of the Black Sea. Mr. Stuart, in this 
interview with the Inspector-General, observed that the 
same objection could not hold good at CafTa as at Peters- 


burg, and requested the Inspector-General to go imme- 
diately to General Fanshaw, and learn what he had to say 
on the subject. He immediately did so, when the Governor- 
General said as before, that he was exceedingly desirous of 
the measure, and that he would give every facility for its 
execution. He, as every other person in power spoken to 
on the subject, said he could not conceive what the real 
ground of the Emperor's objection could have been. 
The Inspector-General endeavoured, but in vain, to learn 
what that real ground might have been. Count Kouman- 
goff could not give any further information. 

On the 16th Sir Samuel was advised both by the 
Ambassador, Lord Gower, and by Mr. Stuart, to obtain 
leave to go to Caffa to build ships and purchase masts, &c, 
and to ask General Fanshaw officially whether he would 
permit ships to be built there, and what encouragement he 
would give. Mr. Stuart advised farther that, supposing 
leave should be obtained, Bentham should set out imme- 
diately, without losing the time requisite for obtaining an 
answer from the Admiralty at home. The question was 
put the same day to General Fanshaw. He replied that 
" he did not know of the peculiar circumstances in which 
the Inspector-General was placed here, and of what had 
already passed as to the refusal of building at St. Peters- 
burg; he should immediately give him the requisite 
permission, and afford him every assistance in his power ; 
but that under existing circumstances he should think it 
necessary to take the opinion of Ministers, notwithstanding 
his own conviction of the eligibility of the measure, and 
the advantages that would result from it to Russia." 

Vexation at the failure of the English scheme of build- 
ing ships, after all his exertions and hopes, brought on 
severe illness. He, however, suffered it not to prevent 
a continuance of his endeavours ; even in his bed, receiving 
General Fanshaw. On this occasion the Governor-General 
informed him that Count Eoumangoff had said " he sup- 


posed the refusal to the proposal for building ships for the 
English Government to be political." The General advised 
the Inspector-General to see TchitchagofT again, and obtain 
from him a decisive answer respecting what steps he would 
take either for or against the building ships in the Black 

On the 21st the Inspector-General, though still ill, went 
to the Minister of Marine so early that he was not yet up, 
sat with him during his breakfast, and at last had a con- 
ference with him in private. In this the Inspector-General 
desired particularly "to be told whether the objection to 
building ships at St. Petersburg arose from 'political 
motives, or from any dislike or objection to him personally. 
That in either of those cases, it would be folly to contend 
against such considerations or prejudices, and that accord- 
ingly, if either of these be the reason, he should give 
up all further thoughts of doing anything in any part of 
Russia." On this the Admiral assured the Inspector- 
General " that there was nothing political in the objection; 
and that as to personal dislike to him, so far from it, the 
Emperor had commanded him (the Admiral) to communi- 
cate with Inspector-General Bentham, and to treat with him 
respecting the introduction of a ropery, or any establish- 
ments in which he could assist for the improvement of this 
country, several of which the Emperor was very desirous 
of seeing established ; and that he (the Minister) con- 
sidered himself as authorised to proceed with those that 
related to his department." In reply, Bentham said that 
" if these were the Imperial sentiments, he should now 
turn his thoughts to building ships in the Black Sea, with 
timber brought from Anadolia, sending them to England 
loaded with stores — would he, the Minister, have any 
objection? Would he wish any proposals of this nature to 
go through him, or through what channel ? " The Minister 
answered, " that Caffa not being considered as a naval port, 
he had nothing to do with business carried on there ; that 


it was in Count KomanzofT's department, and that 
Bentham should apply to him." The Inspector-General 
observed that it would probably be more desirable for 
him to introduce improvements in the south of Eussia 
than at St. Petersburg; and afterwards in consultation with 
a friend (General Hitroff), it was decided that he should 
address a letter immediately to the Emperor, proposing to 
build ships in the Black Sea. By the 23rd it was written, 
and proved satisfactory to that prince ; next day when 
General Fanshawe called to read it, he advised the omission 
of a sentence respecting ships of luar. Sir Samuel after- 
wards took the letter to the Ambassador ; Lord Gower and 
Mr. Stuart each of them examined it separately, and 
approved of it, but both agreed that the sentence to which 
General Fanshawe objected should be retained. As there 
seemed to be reasons why this letter should not pass 
through the hands of the Minister of the Marine, the 
Inspector-General determined, if possible, to present it 
through his friend General Hitroff. This nobleman had 
been the companion of the Emperor in childhood and early 
life, from which arose a mutual affection ; but he had 
never sought emplo3 r ment or distinction on that account, 
and was therefore looked upon as a sincere and disinterested 
friend. He happened at that time to be absent ; but as the 
Emperor had dispatched a courier desiring him to return, 
it was deemed best for the success of the proposal, that it 
should await his arrival* This took place on the 27th, and 
on the same day the Inspector-General took the letter to 
his friend, who willingly consented to present it, and 
caused a translation of it to be made into French, profes- 
sedly for his own use, but from his anxiety that it should be 
well done, and from the many verbal alterations which he 
made, it seemed that he had in view the further object 
of tendering it in the language most familiar to the Em- 
peror, although His Majesty understood English well. 
General Hitroff was ill at the time, and continued too 


much indisposed to go to Court, so that on the 31st March, 
he sent the letter to the Emperor, accompanied by one of his 
own, in which he said that Brigadier-Greneral Bentham was 
not at all willing to re-enter into the Eussian service, 
but that as an individual he found him ready to do any 
thing in his power for the advantage of Eussia, whilst he 
remained, and he advised the Emperor to consent to the 
building of ships in the Black Sea. Greneral Hitroff 
having dined with His Majesty, on the 8th of April 
Bentham went to learn the determination as to CafTa. 
His Imperial Majesty had told him that the answer in 
regard to ship building would be given through Prince 
Tsartorinsky, while in other matters he should commis- 
sion Tchitchagoff to communicate with Greneral Bentham 
on the following day. From this he concluded that a re- 
fusal would be given to the building. 

He lost no time in communicating to the Admiralty the 
unfavourable result of his endeavours, and on the 9th he 
acquainted their Lordships that although no answer what- 
ever had as yet been given by the Eussian Grovernment to 
the repeated applications made by Lord Gower respecting 
the object of his mission, he "had now reason to believe 
that the Emperor will not at last consent to the building 
of any ships for our Navy." He added that luckily, although 
his instructions had extended to the making preparations 
for building ten ships of the line and ten frigates, he had 
abstained from engaging for more timber than was neces- 
sary for two ships of the line and two frigates, which he 
had hoped would have been ready in the course of that 
summer, and that if a decided negative should be given 
to this business, he should think it his duty to send home 
by the first opportunity the persons who accompanied 
him ; although the disposal of the timber, and the need of 
further instructions from their Lordships, might render 
it necessary that he should himself remain some little time 
longer in Eussia. 


In reply to his letter, he was directed to obtain, through 
Lord Grower, a categorical answer, and in case of refusal to 
send the persons who accompanied him home, as he had 
proposed; but to remain himself till the materials, tools, 
&c, belonging to Government should be disposed of. 

His endeavour now was to obtain leave for the timber 
which he had purchased to be sent to England duty free, 
arguing with Admiral Tchitchagoff that it would be only 
analogous to what England had done for Russia, &c. 

He was answered that this would be permitted, and duty 
free. This was a far greater boon than would appear at 
first sight, for not only the duty saved amounted from 
ten to fifteen thousand pounds, but the great scarcity of 
this store in England rendered this additional supply of 
importance in the Koyal Docks. 

Although the Inspector- General had had no part what- 
ever in projecting this mission, and had accepted it only as 
a duty which he owed to his country, — militating as it did 
against his wishes and private convenience, as also against 
the prosecution of the various and great improvements at 
home which he had so much at heart, — yet his mortification 
at the result was extreme. Untoward as circumstances had 
appeared on his arrival, the evident appreciation of his 
talents not only by the Minister of Marine but by the Em- 
peror himself, and the facilities that had in consequence been 
afforded him in making preparations for building ships for 
the British Navy, together with many other circumstances 
that had occurred in private communications, had given 
him ground to hope that at last he should be permitted to 
accomplish the purpose for which he had been sent from 
home. Now these hopes were at an end, and he could 
only look forward to the odium which, however unmerited, 
generally falls on a man charged with any mission of 
which the object fails; still this made no change in his 
determination to devote himself to the service of his own 

R 2 


For some time back business of a different nature had 
occupied him a good deal. The demand in England for 
copper, an article so indispensable to the navy, had caused 
the great holders of it to combine together for raising 
its price to an exorbitant amount. Here then was an op- 
portunity of realising one of the benefits which he had in- 
dicated in his first proposal for manufacturing that article, 
namely, that " under circumstances when it may be found 
more beneficial to use the copper of other countries, it 
might be imported as a partial supply for the use of her 
Majesty's Navy, without interference with any general 
commercial privileges or arrangements." Messrs. Bailey, of 
St. Petersburgh, had proposed to furnish the Navy Board 
with a certain quantity of copper at a rate much below the 
English price. The Board recommended reference to the 
Inspector-General. Samples of it were therefore analysed 
at the metal mills at Portsmouth, and the expenses at- 
tendant on bringing it to a state for those mills ascertained, 
so that the Navy Board authorised Messrs. Bailey to furnish 
1000 tons, if sanctioned by General Bentham, and if at a 
price not exceeding 150/. per ton. He did authorise the 
sending a quantity, and he obtained it at 145/. lis. 5(7. per 
ton. This supply, together with the operation of the metal 
mills, caused the market price of copper to fall as much as 
5d. per pound within the twelvemonth following. Inde- 
pendently of other savings made by the manufacture of 
sheathing on Government account, by that fall alone it 
amounted to above 38,000/. a year. 

At length it was communicated officially to our Govern- 
ment that no vessels of war could be allowed to be con- 
structed in Russia for British use. 

The Inspector-General, on the communication of this 
note, wrote to inform the Admiralty that, having been well 
assured that the answer to Lord G. L. Gower's note would 
be to that effect, he had been anxious to put an end as 
soon as possible to the current expenses attendant on his 


mission, and previously to the receipt of their Lordships' 
orders of the 1 1th May, had taken the earliest opportunity 
of sending home the persons he had brought with him, 
with the exception of Joseph Helby, who would remain 
until the timber was shipped. 

On the 8th of October the Secretary of the Admiralty 
wrote, that he had "their Lordships' commands to acquaint 
you that they approve of what you have done." 

On receipt of these letters, the season being too far ad- 
vanced to admit of his return to England, or of shipping 
the timber, he necessarily was detained for the winter at 
St. Petersburgh, yet not without anxiety, as no formal no- 
tice had been received of acquiescence in the Imperial 
desire of obtaining for him a temporary leave of absence. 
But with the sanction of our ambassador, and in obedience 
to the instructions he had received to do everything in his 
power that might be agreeable to the Emperor, he had 
consented to introduce some of his inventions and improve- 

On the 17th March, 1807, he heard from a private 
friend that the Admiralty, not having received from the 
Russian Government any application for his stay at St. 
Petersburgh, had commanded his return by the 24th June. 
But a long correspondence and much trouble ensued before 
he was informed by the Secretary to the Admiralty, that 
in consequence of the desire expressed by the Emperor, 
his leave of absence had been extended to September 29, 

This mission affords a striking example of the mischiefs 
arising from want of precision in diplomatic communica- 
tions, especially verbal ones. The sending an officer of high 
trust, and the expenses incurred so uselessly in regard to 
the artificers who attended him, solely on the authority of a 
courteous reply from Russia to a vague request from Eng- 
land, but above all the disappointment of obtaining twelve 
ships of the line and as many frigates in a time of war, might 

E 3 


have afforded good grounds to an opposition party in Par- 
liament for inquiries respecting the measure. But there 
happened at this period to have been so many changes in 
the Administration, that this mission passed unheeded. 

The only establishment which he was enabled to com- 
mence in Eussia was the Panopticon at Ochta. For the sake 
of expedition it was built of wood. The progress made in 
it during the few short months of summer was so great, 
that its efficacy in affording perfect inspection of all its 
parts from the centre was manifest- 
He obtained freight in June for two cargoes of timber, 
but finding it impossible to procure any means of convey- 
ance for the whole, he wrote to Admiral Gambier to 
induce him to send transports from England for the 
remaining 4000 loads. 

The Enssian Admiralty having expressed a wish to 
purchase the copper bolts sent from England, and par- 
ticularly the tools and engines of his invention, he dis- 
posed of them, as well as all the implements, &c, provided 
for building- the above-mentioned four vessels. Having; 
completed these arrangements, he took leave of the Em- 
peror, so as to be home by the time indicated, but 
the Imperial alliance with Bonaparte having already 
taken place, no passport could be obtained in the usual 
mode. This delayed his departure to the middle of 
September, when the Emperor assigned one of his cor- 
vettes to convey the General and his party from Eevel 
to Sweden. 

No greater proof can be given of the Emperor's confi- 
dence in his honour than that, notwithstanding the war 
with England, he was not only permitted to examine the 
important port of Eevel, but allowed to take notes, with the 
view of ascertaining the best means of improving it. This 
was the more remarkable, as it was evident that devotion 
to his own country was the sole cause of his return home. 
The flattering distinction with which he had been received 


at St. Petersburg by official men and others, as well as by 
the Emperor himself, had had no charms in competition 
with service at home. • Pecuniary considerations had been of 
no avail ; for the Emperor had assigned him an allowance, 
paid monthly in advance, exceeding that of any of his 

His stay at St. Petersburg had been so unexpectedly 
protracted, that nightly frosts had already commenced 
when he and his family left that capital in the middle of 
September. On their arrival at Revel, two days' rest were 
allowed them whilst he examined the port. It was in- 
tended that the corvette should convey him to Stockholm, in 
order that he might obtain the King's permission to inspect 
the naval arsenal at Carlscrona. It proved to be a voyage 
of alarms and danger, for the commander of the vessel 
and his officers appeared little competent to manage her, 
and the sails were so set that often she was carried 
aback instead of forward. One stormy day she was about 
to be run ashore on a Danish island, when he at last 
ventured to interfere. The commander, to his credit, 
admitted the truth of his observations, and put the vessel 
under his direction; the sails were altered to his wish, 
and the corvette escaped. As English, they had unusual 
dread of any Danish port, exasperated as the Danes were 
at that time by the late slaughter at Copenhagen. 
But he and his children spoke Russ as natives, and would 
have passed as Russians ; while his wife's few words of 
Russ would have sufficed, ill and confined to her cot as she 
was. At length he thought it prudent to steer for Carl- 
scrona, the nearest port friendly to England, instead of 
Stockholm, the commander having had orders to land 
him at any place in Sweden which he might select. Great 
indeed was his relief when a pilot from that port was once 
on board. Before going on shore, the Governor had been 
informed of his arrival, and sent his carriage to receive 
him on his landing. 

s 4 


It was not in the power, however, of any of the authorities 
to admit any one to the arsenal without special permission 
from the King. This was immediately applied for in favour 
of Bentham, and accorded in due course of time. He had 
already acquainted the Admiralty at home that he in- 
tended visiting Carlscrona in his way, in order to examine 
the great works there, especially as the route across Sweden 
at that time of year, and during the state of war, was 
the only one that afforded a chance of his timely arrival 
in England. 

This port was the only naval establishment in the Baltic 
which General Bentham had not previously visited. Its 
splendour and the utility of its arrangements are well 
known ; but he had opportunity of learning what were the 
real advantages derived from these works. The Governor 
of Carlscrona, Admiral Puka, and the Principal Officer of 
the Naval Arsenal, Major Kilgren, most kindly afforded 
him every information. 

The many anxieties and fatigues which Greneral Bentham 
had undergone of late had produced an illness that needed 
rest ; yet when he had inspected the works of the arsenal, 
he immediately set out on his return. His kind ac- 
quaintances at Carlscrona had given him letters of 
introduction to the landed proprietors whose estates were 
situated on his route. This was fortunate ; for. when half 
way between that town and Gothenburg, his travelling 
coach, an English one, broke down. He learnt that he 
was within half a dozen miles of Engeltofta, the resi- 
dence of a proprietor, Major Schamsward, where there 
was an establishment of English workmen, for the 
works needed on the estate. He and his family walked 
on to Engeltofta, where he was cordially welcomed. His 
carriage was well repaired; and during the three days 
requisite for the work, they were entertained in the most 
hospitable and friendly manner by the Major. On his es- 
tate, a few miles north of Helsingborg, amongst the tender 


fruit-trees were olives, which bore fruit, and a keg of 
them preserved as in France, had been sent as a present 
to that country. 

On reaching the coast, they had to wait some days for 
the sailing of a packet before they embarked for England. 
After a long and dangerous passage, they landed at Har- 
wich, where he received letters from his office, The first 
which he opened informed him that the office of In- 
spector-Greneral of Navy Works was abolished, and that, 
in consequence of a recommendation of the Commission of 
Naval Revision, it was to be incorporated with the Navy 
Board, of which he was to be appointed one of the Com- 



Changes of Administration at the Admiralty — Influences at \rork during 
his absence in Kussia — Acceptance of Office in the Navy Board — 
Letter from General Fanshawe — Compensation to Mr. Brunei for 
Sayings on Blocks — Proposal for a Canal from Portsmouth Harbour to 
Stokes Bay — Mixture of Copper and Tin — Faulty method of Ship- 
building — Covered Docks — Modes of Seasoning Timber — Seasoning 
Houses — Sheerness Dockyard — Northfleet and the Isle of Grain — 
Breakwater at Plymouth. 

To account for this unexpected change, the different disposi- 
tions of the several Admiralty Naval Administrations under 
which Sir Samuel had been employed must be reverted to. 
Enough has been already said to prove that, whilst the 
many glorious achievements of the navy proved the wis- 
dom of Earl Spencer's military measures — he was alive 
to the want of improvement in the civil branch of the 
service. His own perception of the value of General Ben- 
tham's suggestions led his Lordship to induce him to 
undertake a visit to the dockyards, and then to enter 
permanently in H. M.'s service ; yet even from the first his 
Lordship manifested the ruling spirit of his administration 
— that of conciliation of the existing interests. Through- 
out the many years of his presiding at the Admiralty, 
whilst he listened with the greatest interest to General 
Bentham's suggestions, and eagerly solicited him to point 
out abuses and mismanagement, he perceived that it was 
the system itself, and very rarely this or that individual 
that was at fault ; it was, therefore, a reform of the system 
itself which Lord Spencer aimed at, as the only effectual 
remedy. It appeared to him that the Inspector-General's 


peculiar situation, together with the insight he had had 
from a boy into the business of a dockyard, rendered him 
especially competent to contrive a mode of management 
that should be effectual ; but though his talents were ac- 
knowledged and appreciated, the Secretary of the Admi- 
ralty was associated with him in the business, in order to 
conciliate inferiors, and he wished the whole to be framed 
in a manner to injure as little as possible the existing ser- 
vants of the Crown. 

When the Earl of St. Vincent came to preside at the 
Admiralty, the widely different spirit of the new Adminis- 
tration was immediately evident. This may be accounted 
for by the mismanagement and abuses habitual in the 
dockyards, which frequently occasioned delays, disappoint- 
ments, and useless expenses on board the ships and fleets 
that his Lordship had commanded, sometimes even suffi- 
cient to have put in jeopardy the success of an expedi- 
tion. His Lordship and his Board had experienced the 
value of military discipline in bringing seamen to a strict 
performance of their duty, and it appeared to them that 
similar means might be adopted with equal efficacy in the 
civil branch of the navy. His Lordship, moreover, was 
continually urged to extreme measures by some of the sea 
Lords in the Board of Admiralty. That abuses did exist 
sufficient to excite the wrath of a conscientious Board, the 
few examples adduced in these pages would alone suffice to 
prove ; but the correction of them was not likely to be effected 
by the frequent habitual use of such intemperate expressions 
as that the " master shipwrights ought all of them to be 
hanged." The specific abuse which gave rise to the Com- 
mission of Inquiry (namely, the retaining infirm men when 
past their work, in the dockyards, at the pay of the young 
and efficient artificers), was an abuse as well known to the 
Navy Board and to the Comptroller himself as it was to the 
master shipwrights. But it was in fact neither attributable 
to the dockyards, to the Navy Board, nor to the Comptroller; 


but it sprung from the system of management, for that 
system made no provision whatever for different rates of 
pa}', so that a man after having spent his best years in the 
service, when at length his strength failed, would neces- 
sarily either be altogether discharged, or retained at the 
same pay as when in his full vigour. It could not be ex- 
pected that the dockyards or the Navy Board should be so 
wanting in humanity as to dismiss a deserving artificer 
so long as he could, on any pretence, be continued on the 

Of Lord St. Vincent's never ceasing endeavours for the 
real benefit of the service, the Inspector-General had fre- 
quent and convincing proofs. His Lordship's relinquish- 
ment of patronage evinced itself frequently, particularly in 
the appointments at the dockyards, and the introduction of 
the new regulations for timber. On that occasion neither 
his Lordship nor any of his Board patronised a single 
favourite ; the best men were sought for and appointed, 
whether taken from private yards or already engaged in 
the royal ones. 

The succeeding administration of Lord Melville was no 
less favourable to the Inspector-General than the preced- 
ing ones had been ; and his various plans of improvement 
in ship building, manufacturing establishments, and engi- 
neering improvements in the dockyards, all were pro- 
gressing satisfactorily, when the Tenth Eeport of the 
Committee of Inquiry appeared. The excitement which 
it produced occasioned a most unfortunate change, end- 
ing in defalcations from the measures that had been pur- 
sued for improvement and reform through three successive 
Naval Administrations. Lord Barham, now First Lord 
of the Admiralty, was known to be unfriendly to the 
Committee of Inquiry, and Lord Sidmouth has said 
(Life, vol. ii. p. 362) that " Lord Barnaul's opinions 
are adverse to those we have upheld." 

The Board of Naval Eevision instituted at this time 


seems to have been decided on with a view to prevent such 
disclosures as had been elicited by the Committee of 
Enquiry, to veil abuses from the public eye, and to enable 
the civil service of the navy to "glide smoothly on in the 
beaten track which it had worn for itself." 

There seems every reason to suppose that if General 
Bentham had been in this country at that time, and had had 
opportunity of stating facts to disprove unfounded allega- 
tions, no decision could have been come to which could have 
caused the abolition of his office. Indeed, from the first 
mention of the mission to Eussia, he could not but suppose 
that some covert motive in regard to himself personally had 
been in view. In a letter to Earl Spencer whilst a member 
of the administration, he says, " I cannot but sometimes 
suspect, considering the precipitation with which I was 
sent here, before the Emperor's leave was asked, that an 
anxious desire of removing me out of the way contributed 
not a little to heighten the advantages expected from my 
services at Archangel. I was somewhat confirmed in this 
suspicion b}^ the expression of a man whose influence at 
the Admiralty was yery great, when with a most cordial 
shake of the hand, it came out, as it were unawares that 
6 for his part, though he had the highest opinion of my 
talents and zeal, yet he would give his voice for allowing 
me at least six thousand a year if by that means he could 
be assured I w r ould never return again.' " 

Besides the annoyance which the Navy Board felt at 
having been obliged to give reasons for what they re- 
commended or objected to, there seems to have been 
very powerful private interest operating during his ab- 
sence. It had become evident that in Bentham's office most 
important works had originated and were perfected with- 
out extraneous aid, so that the interests of the private 
engineer no less than of the contractor, w T ere materially 
affected. Advantage was taken of his absence to attack 
the metal mills ; and as to engineering works, a plan had 


been brought forward during that time for the creation 
of a Naval Arsenal at Northfleet, similar to, and in place 
of that proposed by him in the Isle of Grain. By the 
adoption of the Northfleet plan, the private engineer 
and manufacturer of millwright's work could not have 
failed to derive immense pecuniary advantages. These 
interests, operating simultaneously and at a time when 
there were very frequent changes in the Naval Admi- 
nistration, may well account for the abolition of the In- 
spector-General's office recommended by the Committee of 

On Bentham's return he was ignorant of the Grounds 
on which the Committee of Revision had based their re- 
commendation^ as to his office, but in an interview with 
Lord Mulgrave, then presiding at the Admiralty, to use 
the words of General Bentham's letter to his Lordship 
9th March, 1808, he "understood that the intention of 
abolishing my present office had not arisen from any 
doubts of the efficacy of it, but merely from the expec- 
tation that by incorporating me with the Navy Board, 
I should be able to continue my former pursuits with 
less opposition, and, therefore, with more advantage to 
the public service. This did not appear to me so certain." 
He, therefore, had requested to submit to his Lordship 
what appeared objectionable in the measure. General 
Bentham had then only seen the Fourth Eeport without 
its appendix — the only one of the Eeports that had 
been published without such an addition — but having 
obtained from the navy office the appendix also, to use 
again the words of that letter, "I saw that the aboli- 
tion of my office was grounded altogether on the extract 
of a Eeport from the Navy Board, in which it w 
represented that the establishment of the office of 
Inspector-General of Navy Works had not produced any 
benefit to the service equivalent to the expense of it^ 
that he i( saw blame imputed either to me for having in- 


terfered in the business of the Navy Board/' " or to the 
Admiralty Board for having made use of me as their 
instrument in the investigation of business which it was 
their Lordships' duty to control, and when at the same 
time it did not appear that any one on the part of the 
Admiralty had been called upon to produce any docu- 
ments, or even to give any opinion relative to the utility 
of this appendage to their own office." He observed in 
the same communication, that he felt it incumbent on 
him to make a statement on the subject more in detail 
than he had conceived would have been needed, when he 
first obtained permission to draw up such a paper ; and 
added that necessary attention to the current business of 
his office, together with illness, had prevented his com- 
pleting it ; but having heard accidentally that the patent 
for the change was making out, he sent a part of his 
observations and requested some little delay for the re- 
mainder. They were accordingly submitted to the Admi- 
ralty on the 9th of March and 6th of June. 

In these observations the services rendered by the In- 
spector-Greneral of Navy Works were noticed under their 
several heads, showing how impossible it would have been 
to have effected them, as a member of the Navy Board. 
He farther spoke of the improvements which he had 
introduced in naval architecture, and of the decided 
opposition he had had to encounter from the Dockyards 
and Navy Board, till at length experience had proved 
their efficiency. He also represented the strict individual 
responsibility under which the Inspector-Greneral of Navy 
Works proposed any measure, and brought to notice that 
by the Third Eeport of the Commissioners of Revision, it 
had not been intended to abolish the office of Inspector- 
Greneral of Navy Works, which, therefore, must have been 
an afterthought, perhaps on a supposition that he was not 
likely to return from Russia. He urged that of all branches 
of duty, that of a civil architect was the one for which his 


previous education and habits were least likely to have 
rendered him fit ; whilst on the contrary he was to be 
altogether excluded from that duty, to which he had prin- 
cipal ty devoted himself from the period when his classical 
education was finished, and to which his studies had been 
particularly directed. No notice was ever taken of these 
papers, though on one occasion he was taunted by a Lord 
of the Admiralty with having had the education of a 
gentleman, previously to his having devoted himself to 
that of a shipwright. 

But the abolition of the office had been determined on. 

General Bentham for some time hesitated to accept the 
proffered seat at the Navy Board. He requested an inter- 
view with Lord Mulgrave, to ascertain what would be the 
pecuniary consequences to himself if he should refuse, and 
learnt that the retiring allowance intended to be granted 
would not be sufficient for the decent support of his family. 
He consulted his friend the Speaker ; and having by his 
advice decided, though reluctantly, to accept a commis- 
sionership of the navy, on the 29th of August he com- 
municated this determination by letter to Lord Mulgrave. 

He accordingly took his seat. The members of the 
Board were individually friendly, whilst by the Board 
itself he was subjected to many petty annoyances. So 
far as these regarded himself, he would not suffer them 
to stand in competition with the public service; but he soon 
found that persons belonging to the office of the Inspector- 
Greneral of Navy Works, now transferred to the Navy Pay 
Office, were to be injured in their interests: and, in order 
to retain their assistance, he was under the necessity of 
remonstrating against the hardship under which his senior 
draughtsman, Mr. Heard, laboured, he being, by Admiralty 
order, to be placed as an assistant draughtsman, whilst 
his junior, Mr. Millar, was to be placed over his head. 

General Bentham's time had been in great part engaged in 
investigating vexatious attacks on the manufacturing esta- 


blishments in Portsmouth dockyard. On the 6th January, 
in reply to Messrs. Taylor's assertion that they were fully 
satisfied that the block machinery would not do what was 
expected of it, General Bentham informed the Navy Board 
that, with the exception of a very few trifling obstacles 
before specified, the wood mills were able to furnish all 
the articles specified in the blockmaker's contract. So, on 
the 30th January, in answer to a statement "that the 
sheathing now manufactured at Portsmouth was of inferior 
quality to what had before been made there," he wrote 
to the Board that, on inquiry, he saw no reason for sup- 
posing it to be inferior to what it had been before, or 
that too much labour, as was asserted, had been required 
from the workmen; but added that if the Board would 
point out from what particular circumstances their appre- 
hensions arose, he would make further inquiries. On the 
9th of April he gave the Board a detailed account of the 
works completed for the supply of fresh water throughout 
Portsmouth yard and to the fleet, as also of the works for 
extinguishing fire. 

The new navy patent, in which General Bentham's name 
was included, was not read at the Navy Board till the 7th 
December. The books of the office of Inspector-General 
of Navy Works were, by Admiralty order, removed to the 
Navy Office. 

The General had never given a thought to use the title 
which was authorised by his Majesty's permission, or to wear 
in his own country the Cross of St. George. He was 
advised by his friends, particularly Lord St. Helens, to 
assume it on his removal to the Navy Board. It was 
at first intended that the First Lord of the Admiralty 
should present him anew to the King on his appoint- 
ment, but it so happened that he was put off from time 
to time, and that it was not till 1809 that he went to 
Court, where he was received by his Sovereign as Sir 
Samuel Bentham, K.S.G. 



There appear but few documents relative to the busi- 
ness of this year. Severe and long-continued illness of 
several members of his family prevented his wife from 
taking copies of official papers, and he had no longer even 
a single clerk at his disposal. It seems, however, that he 
was much occupied in considering the further introduction 
of machinery, and of various extensive plans of improve- 
ment of several naval arsenals, especially that of Ports- 
mouth Harbour. 

A letter received from his old friend General Fanshawe, 
acquainted him that the Panopticon at St. Petersburg 
" stood well, notwithstanding the shafts of envy," and that 
he had suggested the erection of a similar building for 

The amount of compensation due to Mr. Brunei had 
engrossed a great portion of Sir Samuel's time. On the 
face of this business it might appear scarcely to justify 
the withdrawing so much of his attention from other 
matters, but collateral circumstances rendered his investi- 
gations of real importance, as it afforded proof of many 
of the oversights, if not abuses, frequent in making naval 
contracts. The machinery in question having been in full 
work by the year 1809, Mr. Brunei, on the 5th June, trans- 
mitted to the Navy Board calculations which he had made 
of the savings for one year, amounting to 21,174/. 12s. 10d, 
The Admiralty had directed the Navy Board to consult 
General Bentham as to the best mode of estimating the 
savings made by the machinery for making blocks. The 
papers were referred to him. He put them into the 
hands of Mr. Rogers, afterwards a clerk in the Secretary's 
Office, who after office hours went into various elaborate 
calculations, which made it appear that, supposing the 
prices for blocks to be those at which they were contracted 
for with Mr. Dunsterville, the savings would amount to no 
more than 6691/. 7s. 5<L, whereas, according to a calcula- 
tion based upon the prices paid to another contractor, Mr, 


Taylor, the savings would amount to 12,742/. 8s. 2d. This 
discrepancy in the results naturally led Sir Samuel to look 
into particulars, and the more he entered into them the 
more further investigation appeared essential. He there- 
fore "went into every possible detail of expense that 
could have been expected in a private manufacturing con- 
cern ; whereas Mr. Brunei and Mr. Rogers had both of 
them set down various items at an estimated amount." 

There were, however, circumstances attending this case 
which rendered it a business of peculiar difficulty. It had 
been pointed out to him that the savings produced by his 
own machines, taken from Queen-square Place, were con- 
siderable, and that as they were of his invention, not of 
Mr. Brunei's, the savings made by them ought not to be 
included in his remuneration. But Mr. Brunei had entered 
so fully into the General's ideas, and seconded him so ably 
in the selection of workpeople, that he considered him 
as deserving some remuneration for the trouble he took 
in forwarding his views in regard to the general manage- 
ment. He determined, therefore, to base his calculation 
of savings on the ground of what it had cost to provide 
blocks and blockmakers' wares in the wood mills, com- 
pared with what it would have cost Government to have 
obtained the same quantity of these stores by contract. 

As far as related to the outgoings of the manufactory, 
the accounts kept of them being in form as simple as they 
were correct in particulars, the amount under each head 
was easily calculated ; but it was far otherwise with the 
sums for obtaining blocks and wares by contract. There 
had been two contractors, Taylor and Dunsterville, and the 
prices allowed to Taylor were nearly double of those al- 
lowed to Dunsterville. To complicate the matter, there 
were percentages one upon another that had been autho- 
rised by the Naval Board as additions to the original con- 
tract price ; whilst in abatement of the contractors' profits, 
different naval office fees were to be deducted from the 



sums paid them. Sir Samuel took the trouble to examine 
the quantities that had been actually received from each of 
those contractors, and in calculating savings from the block 
machinery, reckoned a quantity equal to that taken from 
Taylor, at Taylor's prices, a quantity equal to that from 
Dunsterville, at Dunsterville's prices, deducting in both 
cases fees : thus the result of his calculation was the 
amount of saving that had really been made by manufac- 
turing blocks on Government account, which was the sum 
of 16, 6211. 8 s. 10c/. for one year. 

It was not till the 25th of July that Sir Samuel was 
enabled to present his Eeport to his Board. He stated 
that the difference between the 16,621/. 8s. 10t/., the 
21,174/. 12s. 10c?. of Mr. Brunei, and of the two sums of 
Mr. Eogers, 6691/. 7s. 4d and 12,742/. 8s. 2d, might 
well be accounted for by the circumstance of his having 
gone into every possible detail of expense, whereas those 
gentlemen had both of them set down various items of an 
estimated amount only. 

Mr. Brunei's statement having been for a sum so much 
exceeding even Sir. Samuel's, it seems but justice to him to 
insert an article of his journal, 18th March, 1810: — "At 
work all day on Brunei's accounts ; find that he has made 
out his with every appearance of the fairest, most honour- 
able intentions; he has given lumping sums a<jainst 
himself, but has taken no advantage without stating it. 
Eogers has made some omissions and wrong charges both 
for and against Brunei." 

Sir Samuel's accounts given to the Board showed that 
the capital sunk for buildings and machinery had been so 
far liquidated, that the remaining outstanding debt (ex- 
clusive of Mr. Brunei's remuneration) would be paid off 
by the next October ; that including that remuneration, 
the whole cost of the block manufactory would be liqui- 
dated in October of the following year ; the principal 
and interest, and all attendant expenses, having then been 


paid by the profits of the concern. Besides this liquidation, 
the sum of 8732/. Os. 9cl. had already accumulated by the 
reserve of 51. per cent, to compensate for wear and tear 
and chance of disuse. 

The Navy Board transmitted Sir Samuel's statement on 
the 14th of August to the Admiralty, who, on the 18th 
instant, ordered that it should be adopted, and Mr. Brunei's 
remuneration paid to him accordingly. 

This matter has been entered into so minutely as ex- 
hibiting a variety of particulars rarely attended to, or 
thought practicable, in Government concerns ; whereas, on 
the contrary, they are such as ought constantly to be kept 
in view, and rigorously acted on. 

These investigations proved that the Navy Board, in this 
instance, as in so many others, were unobservant of the 
sums they were giving by contract over what the same 
articles might have been obtained for from even another 
of their own contractors; for by far the greater part of 
Mr. Taylor's blocks and blockmakers' wares were double 
the price of Mr. Dunsterville's. 

As long ago as Nov. 1799, Bentham had proposed and 
given a rough plan for a canal from Portsmouth Har- 
bour to Stokes Bay, so as to enable ships to come into 
harbour under whatever wind ; which was either to be 
confined to the width necessary for the passage of a ship 
of the line of the largest dimensions, that is, 130 feet wide 
at the surface, and 34 feet at the deepest part ; or to be 
of sufficient width to allow of a first-rate sailing through 
it. In either case such a canal would have provided for 
the entrance into the harbour of ships of the very deepest 
draught of water, whereas now those drawing more than 
twenty-two feet are of necessity sent for repairs to Ply- 
mouth. The estimate for digging the narrower canal was 
50,000/., for the wider one of double the area 100,000/. ; 
but as Sir Samuel had devised a digging apparatus, to be 
worked by steam, the real cost of this part of the work 

S 3 


would have been much' below the estimate. This appa- 
ratus was to have been on a floating vessel, and in many- 
respects analogous to the steam dredging machine, but so 
contrived as that it should dig the dry ground before it and 
make its way as it advanced, floating still onwards and 
onwards* A triple lock was contrived for each end of the 
canal, the middle lock for ships of the larger classes, a 
smaller lock on each side of it, one for small vessels, the 
other for boats. These locks,with pier-heads and walls of 
masonry, averaging twelve feet in thickness, were esti- 
mated each at 50,000/. There would thus have been 
obtained, besides access to the harbour for the largest 
ships, a basin subservient to use for such petty repairs as 
are done afloat, instead of sending artificers and stores to 
Spithead, while the whole would have afforded most desir- 
able means for the embarkation of troops, and in time of 
peace the means of laying up a fleet. This canal also 
would have been applicable as an immense sluice which, 
with turnwaters and other appropriate works, would not 
have failed to deepen the harbour itself and its entrance. 
It is true that the later invention and use of steam tugs 
has diminished the need for such a work ; yet the many col- 
lateral advantages of it, and especially the great extent of 
basin afforded by it, seem to render it still an object 
worthy consideration. 

On Nov. 26th, 1811, Bentham recalled to the recollection 
of the Board that he had several times mentioned, whilst at 
the dockyards in the summer of 1810, that the building 
ships on steps as hitherto practised seemed to him alto- 
gether objectionable. He now recapitulated his princi- 
pal reasons for this opinion, such as the exposure of the 
materials to the weather, the exposure of the artificers, 
the impossibility of carrying on the work even in the 
shortest days of winter for any longer time than the few 
hours of daylight, the expenses of launching, and, finally, 
the injury done to a ship by the disconnection more or 


less of its parts, as shown by the breaking of the ship in 
launching, which has always taken place in a greater or 
less degree. 

He had considered various modes of forming receptacles 
for building ships, and after examination of those in other 
countries he was satisfied that the most suitable would be 
shallow docks, covered over, lighted by proper windows by 
day, by gaslights, or otherwise, by night, so that work 
might be carried on in them at all times and seasons, the 
same as in other well-constructed workshops ; and that these 
same covered docks would also be the most eligible recep- 
tacles for the repair of ships. 

With assistance which he provided at his own cost, 
his plans were made out, amongst other important works, 
for the construction of covered docks and seasoning houses, 
including convenient arrangements for the performance of 
all those works subservient to the building or great repairs 
of ships which should be carried on by their side, and be 
aided by mechanical contrivance for saving labour and 

In regard to expedition, he felt assured that, the timber 
having been previously duly seasoned, a first-rate vessel 
might from its first commencement be completed in even 
less than six months ; or supposing a double set of arti- 
ficers to be employed, in the short space of three months. 

He afterwards stated, in 1813, that the merit of this par- 
ticular species of accommodation had lately been claimed 
by several persons ; that coverings of some kind for docks 
had in fact been proposed and even used at times at least 
as far back as the year 1776, but those coverings had been 
nothing more than sheds, that is, roofs extending over the 
slips, but not closed, in at the sides or ends, excepting that 
some of those that had been proposed since his drawings 
had been sent in, had had the addition of wooden shutters 
at the sides. These, therefore, even including the covered 
docks in the magnificent naval arsenal at Carlscrona, 

s 4 


were either open to the weather at the sides, or the light 
had been excluded in as far as thev had been closed, and 
all of them were open at the stern. Since the time of 
sending in his plans, the covering of docks and slips had 
been very extensively recommended by the Naval Board, 
and he added that he could not entertain a doubt but that, 
in all essential peculiarities, those plans of his would be 
adopted, such as perfect protection from the weather, day- 
light in abundance, means of heating, warming, ventilating, 
and artificial lighting at pleasure. 

As an important appendage to a covered dock, he con- 
trived timber-seasoning houses. It has been seen that 
the seasoning and treating timber in different ways, with 
a view to its preservation, had been objects of inquiry 
and study even from the first of his investigations in 
Holland, in the year 1797. On the occasion of reference 
to him of a proposal for seasoning timber by means of 
lime, he recommended a trial of that expedient. No ex- 
periments were however authorised, but at different times 
he took advantage of such means as opportunities pre- 
sented to make trials of the sort ; — such as at Plymouth 
through Mr. Jenner, by the impregnation of wood with 
oil, to protect it from worms; and in 1805, he caused a 
cellar of the wood mills to be employed as a seasoning- 
house, where a course of experiments was commenced by 
drying wood artificially, by steaming it, by impregnating 
it with the acid from wood shavings whilst burning, &c ; 
but which experiments were put a stop to by his being 
sent away to Russia. In 1811, when the destruction of 
ships of war by the dry rot was so prevalent, he brought 
to view a variety of important facts relative to the venti- 
lation of ships, and to the preservation of the timber of 
which they are built. 

On the 13th September, his minute stated that he had 
known the progress of dry rot stopped by thoroughly im- 
pregnating the infected parts of wood with a solution of 


sulphate of iron ; and that Dr. Hales had long ago recom- 
mended a solution of sulphate of copper with a view to 
preserve timber, and to protect it from worms. 

On the 6th March, 1812, he transmitted to the Navy 
Board his design for a timber-seasoning house, and pre- 
faced his description of it with the best and fullest account 
that has (it is believed) ever appeared of instances exem- 
plifying the durability of timber, of the circumstances 
under which it had proved of long duration, and of various 
means used for its seasoning and preservation. He in- 
stanced Westminster Hall and Abbey, and a number of 
cathedrals, churches, and old mansions, as affording ex- 
amples where timber used in constructions on land had 
remained perfect for many centuries, and the Koyal George 
as an example even of timber in ships lasting for near 
a century. On the other hand, of late, when dry rot 
had taken place, there were instances where the wood- 
work in buildings on land had fallen to pieces in the course 
of a twelvemonth, and in ships, within a year or two after 
their construction was completed. 

In instances where the duration of timber for centuries 
has been unquestionable, it is well known that no pre- 
paration was used except that it had been cut down long 
enough for the natural moisture to have been in a great 
degree dried away. He instanced the means by which 
this is usually effected, by piling deals and other small 
pieces in the open air ; and in regard to large timber, by 
leaving it for years with the bark on, when, that having 
rotted away, the interior parts of the log have been found 
to become compact, hard, and dry, with little or no 
cracking of the timber itself. On the contrary, where 
timber has been sided, that is, some of the outside of the 
timber cut off, the outside of such pieces has been found 
more or less cracked before the inside had been sufficiently 

The best mode hitherto in use for seasoning timber was 


leaving it, with the bark on, in the open air, whereby the 
perfectly formed wood has been protected from the imme- 
diate action of the sun and air, and the drying away of 
the juices from the whole has proceeded so gradually and 
uniformly as not to cause any cracking or separation of 
the fibres. But this mode requires a greater length of 
time than the supply of timber to the royal dockyards has 
provided for, or can be expected in the case of any private 
builder. From this might well have arisen the short dura- 
tion of some ships of war of late years, while the different 
degrees of duration in different ships were likely to have 
arisen from various causes of greater or less wet in them. 
He then particularised some of the expedients which had 
been tried, such as, in warm countries, covering the tim- 
ber with sand, so that the moisture might dry gradually 

Artificial heat had, previously, been successfully applied 
by manufacturers and others for drying boards and other 
pieces of small scantling. In Russia, boards and wood 
cut into small scantlings are suspended in workshops 
always much heated in winter and very little ventilated. 
From all the opportunities which he had had of examining 
the state of timber so prepared, the due seasoning without 
cracking has appeared to depend on the ventilation having 
happened to be constant, but very slow, joined to such a 
due regulation of the heat as that the interior of the 
timber should dry and keep pace with the outer circles in 
its contraction. The only instance in which he had seen 
an apparatus constructed purposely for seasoning timber 
by artificial heat was at the great cotton manufactory of 
Messrs. Strutt at Belper, whose planks and deals w T ere 
seasoned without injury, and in a short space of time, by due 
ventilation and heat. Under some circumstances a heat 
even greater than that of boiling water can be applied in 
a close kiln, as in the instance of steaming planks and 
thickstuff. It was, therefore, on the providing means of 


applying heat so as to vary it suitably to different kinds 
of timber, and to the different states and stages of its 
seasoning, and on the regulation at pleasure of the admis- 
sion of dry air, that his expectations were grounded, of 
deriving advantages from the use of the seasoning-houses 
which he proposed* 

The estimate for the seasoning-house was 5929/. 10s. 
To set against that expenditure} over and above insuring 
the most perfect seasoning of the timber, would be the 
interest of the capital lying dead during seasoning of the 
timber in the common way* Supposing only three }^ears 
to be required in that common mode, and 45,000/. the 
value of the timber (at a price less than the then current 
one), the compound interest upon that sum for three years 
would be upwards of 7186/.; whereas, as he had reason 
to think that the timber would in three months be per- 
fectly seasoned in one of these houses, the interest on 
the 45,000?. for that time would be 5621. 10s., that on the 
capital sunk for the seasoning-house, 74/. 2s. 4c/. ; wear 
and tear upon it at 5 per cent., 74/. 2s. 4c/. ; supposing 
500 tons of water to be evaporated, and half a chaldron 
of coals consumed per ton (a quantity greater than he 
knew from experiment to be requisite), the value of the 
coals would, at 52s. per chaldron, be 650/. The total 
greatest expense, therefore, 1360/., leaving a balance upon 
every 3000 loads of timber of 5826/. ; and supposing 
the house to be charged only three times in the year, the 
annual saving by one of these houses would be 17,478/., 
so that the capital sunk for its erection would be refunded 
in less than half a year, after which a clear annual saving 
would be effected of 17,000/. by one only of these season- 
ing houses. 

Works at Sheerness dockyard have not as yet been 
noticed, because it appeared desirable to give a connected 
instead of yearly statement in regard to them. This 
dockyard is situated, in some respects, advantageously 


for the repair of ships coming in from the eastward, but 
certain winds (and those which commonly prevail) are 
unfavourable to its approach. The works at this ar- 
senal, as they existed at the end of the last century, 
were on too small a scale to afford means of repairing 
within the yard any other vessels than those of the smaller 
classes : those works themselves were fast wearing out. 
Sir Samuel was satisfied of the incompetency of those to 
the eastward for the repairs of large ships, for excepting 
at Chatham there were no means of effecting what are 
denominated great repairs : so that ships stationed to the 
eastward, frequent as was their need of small repairs, could 
not obtain them at a nearer yard than Portsmouth. This 
port, so distant from their station, was sometimes attained 
with difficulty and danger, always with delay and conse- 
quent needless expense. He therefore so early as 1799 
suggested, in letters to Earl Spencer, the expediency of 
giving up Deptford dockyard, and of providing a new, 
complete system of naval establishments in the Isle of 
Grain, including a basin for laying up ships, particularly 
large ones. 

In his conferences with Earls Spencer and St. Vincent, 
he did not fail to represent the advantages that would 
result from such an arsenal as conducive to the speedy 
repair and outfit of our fleets. Lord St. Vincent's own 
observations as a naval commander convinced him of the 
correctness of these views, so that he was prepared, on his 
visitation in 1802 to the eastern yards, to consider the 
proposal on the spot. On that occasion his Lordship 
examined with great attention that part of the Isle of 
Grain which had been pointed out as an eligible site for 
a new naval arsenal. His opinion, and that of the other 
Lords of the Admiralty then on visitation, was so favour- 
able to Sir Samuel's proposal, that they caused an account 
of some of his reasons for forming such an arsenal to be 
recorded in his very words in the " minutes of visitation." 


It happened that during this and the succeeding Naval 
Administration, General Bentham's occupations were such 
as to engross the whole of his attention, without refe- 
rence to the new arsenal, otherwise than in so far as the 
introduction of extensive machinery for manufacturing 
purposes was subservient to the improvements which he 
contemplated for it. As previously noticed, whilst he 
was actively pursuing improvements in the western 
yards, he was early in Lord Barham's administration sent 
to Eussia. 

During the few days Sir Samuel was in town previously 
to his departure, he could not but suspect that some sinis- 
ter views had led to this measure. Soon after he left 
England the Commission of Naval Eevision was instituted, 
to all appearance with a view to stop the inquiries of the 
Commission of Naval Inquiry. At the same time mem- 
bers of the Naval Board dreaded that the really respon- 
sible, and consequently efficient, management which late 
Admiralty Boards had been disposed to introduce should 
now be carried into effect. It was notorious that in Earl 
Spencer's administration Sir Samuel was the man who 
had had the courage to point out numberless instances of 
mismanagement, and that he had devised means for the 
future prevention of it ; that his endeavours were likely to 
succeed, and the Naval Board could not but surmise that 
their own duties would come to be clearly defined ; that 
each member would be made responsible for the business 
assigned to each individually, and thus their duty would 
become real labour. 

On Sir Samuel Bentham's return from Eussia nothing 
further passed to his knowledge either in regard to North- 
fleet or to Sheerness, until the 19th January, 1808 : when 
the Admiralty directed him to send assistants in his depart- 
ment (still that of Inspector-General of Naval Works) to 
examine the damages sustained at Sheerness by the high 
tide and tremendous gale of the 14th. On the 30th he 


acquainted their Lordships that the injury done to the 
wharves there did not appear so great as was supposed : 
but he added that the wharf walls were in a state of 
general decay, and pointed out various means by which 
their reparation could be effected. The mischief done 
to the wharf during the late gale had been occasioned 
principally by the rolling of the waves over it, and thus 
washing away the ground from behind. On consulting 
with the Commissioners of Dockyards, it appeared that an 
old ship might be advantageously grounded as a break- 

Sir Samuel had consulted the Commissioners of Dock- 
yards with several experienced pilots and others, before he 
had made up his mind as to the effects likely to be pro- 
duced by sinking the old ship ; and all of them had 
agreed that no mischief would ensue. It can hardly be 
doubted that Mr. Eennie had the same motives for repre- 
senting that Sir Samuel would do mischief at Sheerness, 
as had lately induced him (as afterwards appeared) to give 
their Lordships to understand that the mischief done at 
Woolwich by an improper projection of a wharf, had been 
consequent on the adoption of a plan of Sir Samuel's, 
when the fact was that he had not had the least concern 
in that work, or even the slightest knowledge of it. 

By their Lordships' letter of 3rd September it seemed 
evident that Messrs. Eennie and Whidbey had represented 
the dockyard as being in a state of general dilapidation and 
inefficiency. No particulars of this report were communi- 
cated to Sir Samuel, but he was directed to examine the 
general condition of the dockyard, to " prepare a plan for 
making good the general defects thereof, with such altera- 
tions and improvements with respect to convenience, but 
ivithout any extension of the works, as the state of repairs 
might in his judgment justify." 

On the 30th October he submitted his ideas respecting 
the remedying the defects of the works, and the altera- 


tions and improvements which the state of them would 
justify under their Lordships' restrictions. As to the 
buildings, wharves, and docks, he considered that though 
there were but few that did not show some tokens of decay, 
yet there were scarcely any that were not likely to remain 
for several years as fit for use as they ever had been. 

He deprecated the building or great repairs of ships at 
Sheerness, because that was the only port to the eastward 
where they could come for repairs which, though small, 
were essential ; but he recommended the increase of the 
number of dockyards, so that a ship might be taken in for 
moderate repairsTtrT order to employ artificers when there 
was no press of business. 

Their Lordships, without waiting for the report which 
they had directed Sir Samuel Bentham to furnish, gave 
their orders to the Naval Board to cause a river wall to be 
constructed under his superintendence, but according to 
a line which had been given by Messrs. Eennie and 

When the Naval Board, on the 17th December, requested 
General Bentham to inform them of the particulars of 
the timber required for the new line of wall, he stated 
the impossibility of furnishing them until their Lord- 
ships should have come to a decision on the kind of mate- 
rial of which the wall was to be composed. The Navy 
Board, therefore, applied to the Admiralty, and were by 
them authorised to fix on the materials themselves. On 
this occasion they were further directed to give Sir Samuel, 
now of the Navy Board, a full opportunity of considering 
all that had been written by Messrs. Eennie and Whidbey 
on this subject, as also the plans and estimates of Mr. 
Eennie for the improvement of the dockyard at Sheer- 
ness ; and they were then to come to a decision on the best 
plan for its improvement, and transmit the same for their 
Lordships' consideration. 

On the 28th the Board decided that the wall should 


be of stone, and Sir Samuel, on consideration of the 
badness of the ground in so far as it was known, thought it 
absolutely necessary that experiments should be instituted 
to ascertain the weight it would really bear. As the ordi- 
nary mode of probing for this purpose did not seem satisfac- 
tory, he devised the plan of spreading a considerable surface 
of timber on the ground and weighting it. The ground was 
found soft to so great a depth in the line of the intended 
wall, that in their report they recommended carrying the 
line back to where the subsoil was trustworthy, and pro- 
jecting from it a wharf supported on hollow cast-iron piles. 
As Sir Samuel approved of this, the Navy Board recom- 
mended it to the Admiralty, who on the 15th of May 
ordered it to be carried into execution. 

The work was begun at the end where no difficulty ex- 
isted, and was carried on as far as where the foundation 
needed to be but two or three feet under low-water 
mark. At this juncture it appeared that new appa- 
ratus would be required for levelling the ground. He 
had various expedients in view, by means of which he 
foresaw that he could obviate the difficulties, and still 
more the enormous expense, of carrying on works in the 
usual way, where piles of fifty or sixty feet long would 
have been required ; but not having any assistant but Mr. 
Goodrich who possessed the requisite scientific knowledge, 
he proposed that a duly qualified person should be engaged 
to superintend the works at Sheerness. Although this was 
denied him, and although he had no adequate assistance 
afforded him even for ordinary business, he resolved to 
struggle on to the utmost. The Navy Board, on their 
part, convinced of the inadequacy of his establishment, 
rendered him some assistance by permitting the engage- 
ment of a working mason ; and this man, so long as the 
Sheerness wall had its foundation but little below low- 
water mark, proved very useful. 

As the time approached when the wall must be con- 


structed in deep water, and where the foundation would be 
laid on mud and a quicksand to a considerable depth, it 
was evident that no ordinary mode of construction could 
be adopted but at an enormous expense. He could not 
hear of, nor had he seen either in this country or on the 
Continent, any example of such a work executed otherwise 
than under cover of a dam, or in caissons of wood. The 
latter of these modes, besides being costly, was objection- 
able, on account of the perishable nature of the wooden 
case. Various expedients presented themselves to his fer- 
tile mind. But before finally determining on any mode, 
he thought it incumbent on him to examine, in as far as 
time permitted, the most important works that had been 
executed on the south-east coast. Accordingly, in August 
1810, he combined this object with that of examining the 
capabilities of various places on the south-eastern and 
southern coast for becoming harbours of refuge ; and at 
the same time he wished to demonstrate the impolicy of 
sinking any considerable sum on the repairs of Sheerness 
dockyard, objectionable as it was on account of its situa- 
tion in regard to prevailing winds and other drawbacks. 
On this account he proceeded to examine and consider 
whether it might not be more eligible to adopt the idea of 
an arsenal at Northfleet, since the Isle of Grain had been 
so unfortunately rejected. 

Northfleet, it is true, appeared to have been already 
given up by the Admiralty, since in March of that year 
the Navy Board had orders to let the land which they had 
purchased there. Sir Samuel having applied for a sight of 
the plan for the projected arsenal, the Comptroller assured 
him that the Navy Board had it not; that they knew 
nothing of it officially. Sir Samuel had perused, with 
interest, various pamphlets published in regard to it. He 
had strenuously advocated, as has been seen, the construc- 
tion of a naval arsenal "somewhere north of the Fore- 
lands;" and although he had pointed out the long-thought- 



of site, the Isle of Grain, he was not wedded to it, and 
would certainly as willingly have advocated any other one, 
if equally eligible in regard to the most important points. 
On this tour, therefore, his first visit was to Northfleet, 
where he found that the depth of water was sufficient, and 
that the place was well protected from wind. But, on the 
other hand, the valley appeared difficult to fortify, and he 
had lately received unquestionable information, based on 
boring operations carried on at both places, that the 
ground there was quite as bad as that at Sheerness. 

On the 5th July Sir Samuel, in conversation with Mr. 
Yorke, the First Lord of the Admiralty, directed his notice 
to several of his official papers which proved the expe- 
diency of forming a new naval arsenal to the eastward. 
In a pamphlet, then just published*, advocating the con- 
struction of that proposed at Northfleet, the author, after 
adducing the opinions of two former First Lords, the Earl 
of Egmont and Lord Howe, in favour of a dockyard at the 
Isle of Grain, introduces supposititious addresses from Earl 
Spencer and the Earl of St. Vincent, in both of which the 
very words of Sir Samuel's official letters are made use 
of in long quotations as arguments in favour of such 
an establishment, without, indeed, naming him ; and the 
pamphlet led, besides, to the supposition that the ques- 
tion at that period had originated in their Lordships, 
instead of, as was the fact, with the then Inspector- 
General. He had never seen reason to depart from the 
opinions he had stated in regard to all the eastern dock- 
yards, and therefore could not but feel great reluctamv 
on this occasion in being made an instrument of sinking 
such vast sums at Sheerness, a place which after all would 
have the irremediable disadvantage of "being on the wrong 
side of the harbourwith respect to prevailing winds." 

His inspection of Northfleet again led him to revert to 
the Isle of Grain as a far preferable site. It is not even 

* Naval Considerations relative to the Const ruction of a New Naval Arsenal 
at Northfleet Ridgway, 1810. 


at this day useless to recall the subject, although many 
millions of money have been sunk at Sheerness ; for in 
case of war, our fleets acting in the north and east seas 
would still be subject to all the former inconvenience, ex- 
pense, and delays from the want of any arsenal nearer than 
Portsmouth. It may, therefore, be worth while to relate 
the comparative advantages and disadvantages of the two 
sites as appear by Sir Samuel's papers. 

As the borings at the Isle of Grain showed that the 
execution of works close to the water's edge would be 
attended with expense, the Earl of St. Vincent refrained 
from authorising the work, the financial state of the coun- 
try (1802) being such as barely to admit of the armament 
by sea and by land which our political situation as to 
France urgently required. But this difficulty in regard to 
soil existed equally by the waterside at Northfleet ; whilst 
at some little distance inward, the soil of Grain is as 
favourable as could be wished. 

The imhealthiness of Grain has been spoken of as de- 
cidedly adverse to that site. But the canal which Sir 
Samuel proposed would, at the same time that it formed 
an important feature of the new arsenal, have drained the 
low land effectually. Thus, were it only on the score of 
giving a large tract of country to agricultural purposes, 
and health to what would become a numerous population, 
the canal would have been esteemed a public benefit. In 
point of fact, Grain in its then state was not more un- 
healthy than Sheerness and its surrounding marshes. The 
disfavour brought on the island by Mr. Bunce's death was 
unfortunate. His predisposition to disease, occasioned by 
excess of both bodily and mental labour, was never taken 
into account by those who adduced it as the ground for 
rejecting Grain. Examples abound of marshland, when 
drained, becoming healthy. 

As to prevailing winds, the Isle of Grain and Northfleet 
are under precisely the same circumstances; but under 

T 2 


adverse winds, a vessel could make the Isle of Grain im- 
mediately when coming in from sea ; whilst it would still 
have to beat up the Thames for many miles, especially 
through the long reach of the Hope, before it could make 

As to fortification, the high ground in the Isle of Grain 
would afford a commanding central spot from whence the 
works of the intended arsenal could be protected ; while, on 
the contrary, Northfleet is commanded by high ground of 
great extent, and difficult of fortification. The distance from 
the stronghold of Chatham is about the same for both ; but 
the water communication is greatly in favour of Grain. 
The military protection most to be depended on for a 
naval arsenal, may some day come to be looked for by 
Government as Sir Samuel viewed it, namely, in naval, 
not land defences, since vessels of war, particularly of light 
draught of water, duly armed with heavy ordnance, having 
the great advantage of locomotion, can at any time be 
brought to any threatened spot. The Isle of Grain could 
be, as it were, surrounded by a belt of floating fortifi- 
cations in case of danger. 

The Isle of Grain has also the advantage of a double water 
route for supplies and succour, — by the Medway from the 
interior of the country, through which that river runs, — 
by the Thames for communication with the Metropolis; 
and to this must be added land communication with the 
interior of the country, and above all the immediate one 
by sea. 

On the 7th and 8th August,1810, Sir Samuel was engaged 
at Chatham with a Committee of the Navy Board, who had 
been directed to give their decided opinion on several 
plans which had been proposed in regard to Sheerness, by 
Messrs. Kennie and Whidbey and by Sir Samuel respect- 
ively. On the 9th this Committee made their report to 
the Navy Board. 

The Committee state that " the line of the river wall in 


front of the dockyard, following the course of the current, 
as described in the plan submitted by Sir Samuel Bentham, 
is that which in our opinion should be adopted." They 
next state that Messrs. Eennie and Whidbey, on account 
of the badness of the soil, speak of the limitation of the 
dockyard to the repair of the largest frigate, or even a 
74-gun ship; whilst Sir Samuel Bentham pointed out the 
expediency of extending the use of the dockyard to the 
reparation and outfit of ships of the line of the largest 
dimensions, and that, to effect this purpose, the only addi- 
tional work which he proposed was to extend the length and 
breadth of the docks. As to the requisite depth of water, 
instead of sinking the foundations, he proposed to raise the 
water in the basin by means of a steam engine, as practised 
in Portsmouth dockyard. " Considering, therefore, all the 
circumstances attendant on the two plans, we have no hesi- 
tation in recommending the adoption of that proposed by 
the civil architect and engineer, excepting in the instances 
hereafter particularised." 

On August 30th, the Comptroller acquainted him that 
the Board had come to a decision in regard to Sheerness. 
On September 3rd, he received intimation from the Board 
that the Admiralty had given directions to carry into exe- 
cution certain of the works proposed, and to consider and 
report on others of them ; that therefore his presence in 
town was desired to confer with the Board on the subject. 
He accordingly went to London, returning again shortly 
to Portsmouth, where he was then occupied in designing 
machinery for Sheerness yard, intended to be driven by 
steam and used in crushing stone for Eoman cement. 

Sir Samuel continued his investigations as to the different 
modes for executing works under water in situations and 
on subsoils of mud analogous to that at Sheerness, from 
which it appeared that no other mode of construction of- 
fered advantages superior to the one which he had devised. 

He determined to form the wall of hollow masses of 

T 3 


brickwork twenty-one feet square : a bottom was formed of 
old ship timber, and upon this an inverted arch of brick 
was built, and sides of brick were then built upon the 
arch, the whole being set in Eoman cement, until a suffi- 
cient height was attained to give buoyancy to the hollow 
mass. The first was built in a dock, but subsequently 
this accommodation was found needless. Diagonal walls 
were constructed in the angles to afford strength. The 
mass, when capable of being floated off, was navigated to 
its intended place ; when there, the walls were heightened, 
and the lower part added to in thickness, some shingle, 
set in grout, being thrown into the lower part. "When the 
whole had been by degrees made to sink till it reached 
the muddy bottom, and the walls carried up to nearly high 
water-mark, a loaded vessel was then brought over the 
mass. As the tide fell, of course the weight rested on the 
mass, and pressed it down into the mud till it rested on 
the solid substratum of clay. 

In the autumn of 1810 Sir Samuel's minute was given 
to the Board, stating it to be desirable that the Admiralty 
should be acquainted with the success which had attended 
the fresh-water well at Sheerness, which he had designed 
with appropriate pump and machinery. He stated from 
precise data that 180 tons of water were raised from it in 
ten hours. The fleet has been able to obtain all required 
supplies of water from this well, instead of from boats 
bringing it from Chatham, as heretofore. On the 21st 
February he proposed, in order to store a quantity of water 
for the supply of any casual extra demand, that a reservoir 
should be formed capable of containing about 1000 tons. 

In 1811 Sir Samuel established himself for a time in 
the neighbourhood of Sheerness, taking with him his 
family, who rendered him assistance as clerks, and made 
for him the drawings he required. 

Not long afterwards, the Navy Board acquainted him 
that they had received their Lordships' orders to state 


what had been done in consequence of their order of the 
12th October, as to settling with the Ordnance respecting 
workshops at Sheerness, and that their Lordships had sig- 
nified " that they understood in forming the sea-wall at 
that place it is intended to adopt the plan of sinking 
caissons, instead of the usual mode of driving piles, and 
directed us to report to them whether any estimate of the 
expense, and probable success of the two modes, has been 
made," In his reply to the Board, he gave a plain answer 
to each of the questions proposed ; but at the same time, 
roused by the injustice of insinuations that had been made 
to his prejudice, he adverted to the many successful works 
which he had caused to be executed as a reason why in this 
instance he might be trusted. He added, " I cannot there- 
fore but experience on the occasion of this misrepresenta- 
tion the same sentiments of surprise and regret which, 
while with the Committee here last summer, in the pre- 
sence of the Fust Lord of the Admiralty, I expressed to 
Sir Joseph Yorke, on the occasion when he spoke of the 
injudicious works in Woolwich yard as being mine ; and 
when, on my assuring him that I had had no part either 
in the planning or the execution of them, he replied, 
that at least they were attributed to me, and expressed 
in consequence his apprehension that I was about c to spoil 
this dockyard as I had already spoilt that of Woolwich? 

The mischief done at Woolwich had been by the inju- 
dicious projection of a wall into the Thames, by which 
the current being obstructed in front of the dockyard, an 
enormous quantity of mud was deposited in front of it, 
where the wall occasioned still water. 

Sir Samuel then stated that in fact the mode in which he 
intended to proceed was, to the best of his knowledge, 
entirely new, and that it was more analogous to the prin- 
ciple on which security is obtained by driving piles, than 
it is to the building in caissons. 

He explained the construction of his hollow masses of 

t 4 


brickwork, showing that each mass could be considered 
in fact as an immense pile — a pile of twenty-one feet 
instead of a foot or two — of masonry instead of wood — 
driven down by weight instead of by percussion. 

As to the estimate of the expense of his mode com- 
pared to that of driving piles, he trusted that in a fort- 
night he should be enabled to lay before the Board an 
estimate grounded on the expenses that shall have been 
" actually incurred in forming the foundation of one 
portion of the wall." 

In the mean time, to lessen apprehensions in regard to 
the expense or the probable success of his plans, he 
requested them to bear in mind that he had already to 
their knowledge on many occasions caused the usual modes 
of construction to be departed from, when saving of 
expense had been always one of the objects which he had 
had in view, and that in every instance a real saving had 
been the result. 

On the 15th April, 1811, he acquainted the Board that 
the first mass was completed and ready to be floated to its 
place, and sent a short description of this new mode of 
construction, with an estimate of the expense of a wall so 
formed, and a drawing exemplifying it. 

On the 16th he acquainted the Board that the first mass 
had been the preceding day successfully floated off and in 
its place. At the same time he noticed that the urgency of 
the Admiralty for the speedy progress of the works at Sheer- 
ness had induced him to construct and deposit this first 
mass under several circumstances adverse to success — 
circumstances which, however, would only be considered 
as proof of the eligibility of the invention. 

He had flattered himself with the hope of encourage- 
ment ; instead of which on the 25th he received through 
the Navy Board a letter from Mr. Barrow communicating 
their Lordships' displeasure in terms particularly galling. 
Still he determined to persevere. 


It appears that Commissioner Brown, the Resident Com- 
missioner at Sheerness, having waited on Mr. Yorke (the 
First Lord) about this time, had had discussions with him 
as to Sir Samuel, and had seen reason to vindicate his 
conduct forcibly, though ineffectually. 

Bentham had remarked in the late Admiralty letter the 
contemptuous expression, " as he calls it" twice used in 
speaking of his invention of the hollow masses. The cause 
of this expression now came to light. His assistant, Mr. 
Hull, had said at the Navy Office that this was no invention 
of Sir Samuel's, and that it had been practised by Mr. 
Rennie at Great Grimsby. The statement was incorrect, 
as appears from his letter to his superior, 3rd October, 
1810, in which he wrote as follows: "Mr. Kingston re- 
turned to the office this morning, after having visited the 
following places, Hull, Grimsby, York, Leeds, and from 
thence Spalding and Deeping, but he requests me to say 
he found nothing in any of the ivories ivhich have been 
carried on at any of these places that is in the least 
similar to those ivhich are to be carried on at Sheerness, 
but that the whole have been carried on nearly similar to 
the London and West India Docks, under cover of deems, 
and the walls set- on piles or planks." 

Sir Samuel, hereupon, with the knowledge and appro- 
bation of his Board, directed Mr. Goodrich, the machinist, 
to proceed to Great Grimsby to examine and report on the 
manner in which the works there had been erected. In 
his letter dated from thence, 23rd May, 1811, he says, 
" In regard to the works of the dock here, there has been 
nothing in the mode of carrying on the foundations analo- 
gous to the mode you are pursuing at Sheerness," and 
afterwards, " great difficulties and many failures appear to 
have been experienced in forming the walls and bottom 
of the dock, with a little wharfage beyond the lock in 
the basin ; but the whole was formed under cover of a 
dam made across what is now the entrance into the lock, 


the piles being driven down to a solid foundation of chalk 

Various impediments were found to occur in levelling the 
foundation of the wall by Sir Samuel's dredging machine. 
But the engine worked well in twenty-six feet water; and 
Mr. Goodrich, by skilfully employing harpoons, grapnels, 
and an 8-cwt. anchor with a sharpened fluke, rendered its 
operation very effective. Experience was being gained also 
in the navigation of the hollow masses, which were floated 
by one tide, without the aid of the vessels that were at 
first used alongside, to a convenient seat for them to rest 
on, till a subsequent tide should serve for conveying them 
to their final destination. 

The Admiralty, on the 27th September, 1811, having di- 
rected the Navy Board to furnish them with various particu- 
lars respecting the new wharf wall, Sir Samuel, 8th October, 
acquainted the Board — that in regard to expense (accord- 
ing to an estimate grounded on the expenditure hitherto 
actually incurred for materials, workmanship, and contin- 
gencies) in carrying up above 100 feet of the wall to low 
water-mark, at an average depth of 21 feet, it would be 
211. 7 s. per foot forward ; and supposing the part above 
low water to be 22 feet high, with a moorstone facing, a 
length of 197 feet was estimated at nearly 5000/., so that 
the whole wall of the average height of 43 feet would be 
at the rate of 47/. per foot forward ; whilst according to 
the estimate of Messrs. Eennie and Whidbey, the wall 
proposed was by their estimate at the rate of 191/. 
per foot forward. The expense of Sir Samuel's mode 
was therefore less than a fourth of that of those gen- 
tlemen ; and this, although their wall for a considerable 
length had its foundation but little below low-water 
mark and upon a natural foundation that was unexcep- 
tionable, whilst Sir Samuel's was on an average of the 
whole length no less than 21 feet below low water, the 
ground under it being everywhere of the worst. 


It was at this time, too, that the influence obtained at 
the Admiralty by Messrs. Eennie and Whidbey became 
apparent in regard to another work, the pier and break- 
water in Plymouth Sound, — a work which from its magni- 
tude, its immense cost, and its imposing appearance, is 
held high in general estimation — so highly, indeed, that 
at this day it may seem folly to bring to notice Sir Samuel's 
official representations in regard to it : but in this, as in 
other of the transactions of his life, the public will, it 
may be hoped, eventually give him credit for his en- 
deavours to serve them no less where his representations 
failed, than in the many others wherein they were attended 
with success. 

In regard to Plymouth Sound, Sir Samuel had for many 
years back at various times entertained the idea that 
some kind of breakwater might be constructed to protect 
it. He had, however, been deterred from prosecuting 
any such idea in consequence of information obtained at 
Plymouth, that, so far as he could learn, not any one ship 
of the line had ever been lost in the Sound, and that 
none were injured or were even more liable to injury than 
in any other good roadstead — Spithead for example — 
although in the Sound the waves are long and deep, whilst 
at Spithead the sea is short. He learnt, indeed, that one 
frigate had been lost at anchor in the Sound; but in that 
instance the ports had been left open down nearly to the 
water's edge, so that this could not, any more than the loss 
of the Eoyal Greorge at Portsmouth, be considered as jus- 
tifying the expenditure of perhaps a couple of millions of 
the public money, to the exclusion of improvements more 
imperatively required. 

He was convinced, however, not only of the impro- 
priety of expending so large a sum on the breakwater 
rather than on other more needful works, but that the 
mode of execution proposed was less eligible and more 
costly than others that might be devised ; yet, perceiving 


a determination on the part of their Lordships that 
a breakwater should be executed in Plymouth Sound, 
his next object was to contrive some mode of con- 
struction which should be free from the objections to that 
one which had been adopted. He therefore on the 4th 
October presented a minute, in which he stated the 
principal objections to Messrs. Rennie and Whidbey 's 
breakwater, and proposed hvo new modes for executing 
such a work, — which in fact were three modes, — namely, 
by two rows of cylindrical piers, the piers of one row 
opposite the intervals between the piers of the other 
row ; 2ndly, by a single row of masses, &c. ; 3rdly, by a 
floating breakwater.* By any one of these modes the 
water from the Tamer, and that of the tide, would have 
liberty to flow between or under either of the breakwaters 
which he proposed. In his estimate of expenses the 
grand total of a breakwater of stone, equal in length to 
Mr. Eennie's, and including contingencies, at 15 per cent., 
amounted to 2 84, 648 £. ; if a floating breakwater, including 
also contingencies, at 15 per cent., 201,825/. 

To this proposal the answer of the Board was, that they 
" considered that there was not at present sufficient infor- 
mation before them, either as to the plan proposed by 
Messrs. Rennie and Whidbey, or of the amount of the 
estimate, to enable the Board to act upon the contents of 
this minute." 

Nothing daunted where he felt himself to be advocating 
a benefit to the public, he further urged against the plan 
of Messrs. Rennie and Whidbey, that no opinions appear 
on record as having been given or required from Admirals 
or other naval officers of Her Majesty's fleets, in regard 
either to Plymouth Sound or to any of the other road- 
steads or harbours on the south-west coast. The only naval 

* These modes were twice mentioned in papers printed by order of the 
House of Commons, first in the year 1812, and again in 1842, when they 
were ordered to be laid on the table. 


opinions in support of the work were those of the Masters- 
Attendant Jackson, Hammans, and Brown, who generally 
corroborated Messrs. Eennie and Whidbey's statement ; 
yet, instead of the fifty sail of the line at least which they 
had stated would be sheltered by their breakwater, Mr. 
Jackson limited the number to thirty-six under favourable 
circumstances, and under the guidance of an officer spe- 
cially appointed for the purpose ; while Mr. Hammans in 
his report of the loth October, 1816, said, "I have only 
further to observe that, during the ten years I was Master- 
Attendant at Plymouth dockyard, I never heard of any 
ship getting on her anchor in Plymouth Sound, or any 
other ships' anchors."* 

As to the object of the work, Sir Samuel observed that 
it was nowhere distinctly defined whether the first and 
most essential point of consideration were the converting 
Plymouth Sound into a harbour, in which ships might 
be adjusted in certain preconcerted situations to which 
they required to be warped, or whether it were the im- 
provement of the Sound as a roadstead, to which a fleet 
of ships driven by stress of weather might have easy access 
even in the night, and bring to by their own anchors 
as in other good roadsteads. On this point he observed 
that there were already two good harbours, Hamoaze and 
Catwater, within the Sound, but without it no roadstead 
or safe anchoring ground, and therefore the improvement 
of it as a roadstead was of the most importance, whilst 
the contracting by the breakwater the entrance to about 
half its extent, and the closing the greater part of the 
passage between the Panther and Strood rocks, and con- 
tracting the passage east of the Strood rocks, would 
render access to that anchorage far more difficult than at 

Lastly, he urged that if the protection to be afforded by 

* It was on account of the danger of ships grounding on their anchors 
that the breakwater had been proposed- 


floating breakwaters should on due consideration appeal- 
insufficient, as also if his other mode were deemed 
useless or injurious, he had nevertheless reason to be- 
lieve that even a close pier might be formed (including the 
greater part of the Sound and the whole of Causand Bay), 
so as to render Plymouth Sound and Causand Bay both of 
them good roadsteads, into which the passage should be 
easy, thus affording a safe refuge for twice as many ships 
as were provided for by Messrs. Rennie and Whidbey, at 
even half the amount of the estimate of 1806. 

Inquiry had been instituted in regard to every impor- 
tant work without exception that Sir Samuel, as Inspec- 
tor-General of Naval Works, had proposed: his plans 
had been uniformly referred to the Navy Board, and 
by them to the officers of the ports to which the proposals 
related. When objections were made to his plans these 
objections were in writing, and were referred to him in 
order that he might show, in writing also, his specific 
reasons for considering them not well founded ; and so their 
Lordships were enabled, with the statements on both sides 
before them, to come to such a decision as the reasons 
thus alleged should appear to justify. Had Sir Samuel'.; 
papers on the breakwater been referred in the same way 
to Messrs. Eennie and Whidbey, and had they been re- 
quired to state any arguments which they might have had 
to bring in favour of their own views, and in opposition to 
his, it would have been but just to both sides, and at the 
same time highly expedient in a public point of view, but 
no such course was in this case taken. 

It appears that the Navy Board, perhaps roused to some 
sense of real economy by Sir Samuel's constant efforts to 
effect it, proposed to Mr. Whidbey that a quantity of rock 
and rubble that had accumulated in Plymouth yard should 
be used for the breakwater; but Mr. Whidbey (September 
1st) informed them that it could not be used fur that pur- 
pose. On the 30th November Messrs. Ronnie and Whid- 


bey reported to the Admiralty, that for 2,334,655 feet of 
limestone rock, the property of the Duke of Bedford, his 
agent had required the sum of 11,000/., that is, at the rate 
of about 733/,. an acre for barren rock, besides other advan- 
tages of constructing and leaving a wharf in good order, &c; 
and as of this quantity it was calculated that when raised 
only two-thirds of it would be suitable for the work, it was 
further required on the part of the Duke that the portion 
unfit for the breakwater should be left for the benefit of 
his Grace, to be disposed of as he might deem advisable ; 
thus, besides the 11,000/., his Grace would have the addi- 
tional benefit of having for his use a third of the whole 
quantity raised at the expense of Government. 

It appeared useless for Sir Samuel to interfere further ; 
but it is noted on his copy of the above-mentioned 
proposal, that there was a great mass of stone suit- 
able for the purpose in the upper part of the dockyard, 
and in various other properties of G-overnment, in situa- 
tions where it had been deemed advisable to propose pay- 
in & laro-e sums for the removal of it in order to level its site. 
This breakwater in Plymouth Sound has been produc- 
tive of mischievous results, which will be mentioned pre- 
sently, and which show how unwise it is to adopt the plans 
of any man, however eminent in his profession, without 
fully investigating their merits and defects. 

The first intimation of the breakwater received either 
by the Navy Board collectively, or the civil engineer in- 
dividually, was by a letter, signed by three of the Lords 
of the Admiralty, acquainting the Board that the Prince 
Regent had sanctioned the construction of a pier and 
breakwater in Plymouth Sound, according to a plan 
prepared by Messrs. Rennie and Whiclbey, and directing 
the Board to render assistance in furnishing several costly 
articles. The Board was further recommended to con- 
sult with that engineer, and with their Master- Attendant 


This order placed Sir Samuel in a most embarrassing 
position, since among the duties of his office it was ex- 
pressly stated to be his " peculiar province to examine and 
suggest alterations and improvements in all plans for new 
works." He had lately been greatly blamed, on account 
of some injudicious works at Woolwich, in which he had 
had no concern, and where he could not be considered 
as implicated in the mischief that had been done, unless 
it were supposed that he ought to have interfered so 
as to have prevented their execution. He had reason 
to doubt whether the plans of Mr. Eennie — eminent as 
was this engineer — were at all times the best that might 
be devised, or that his statements were uniformly correct ; 
and the late inquiry in regard to his works at Great 
Grrimsby had brought to light, unsought for, considerable 
failures, and particularly a disregard of economy in the 
mode of execution. 

Sir Samuel could not but feel the more anxiety owing 
to the thought which he had himself bestowed on the 
subject of a breakwater in Plymouth Sound; entertain- 
ing, conjointly with Lords Spencer and St. Vincent, an 
opinion that the money required for such a work might be 
much more advantageously employed elsewhere. 

Of the three modes which he suggested as free from the 
objections which might be urged against Mr. Eennie's, the 
third, — namely, a floating breakwater, the estimate for 
which, including contingencies, at 15 per cent., was 
201,825/., — was that which he preferred. His preference 
arose from the efficacy of a similar breakwater which he 
had seen, on his return from Eussia, at the port of Eevel ; 
and he had lately had one of the same kind, on a small 
scale, in use at Sheerness. The floats which he designed 
for Plymouth were each of them prisms of 60 feet long, 
30 feet deep : they were to be moored in two rows, each 
float of the back row behind the interval in the outer row. 
The great advantages of this mode were that, whilst small 


vessels might navigate between the floats, large ships, 
should they be driven against the breakwater, would re- 
ceive no injury, — at the worst, the float would be pressed 
downwards, and the ship be carried over it. Another 
very great advantage was, that such a breakwater might 
be moored for experiment in any part of the Sound, and 
be easily removed to any other part of it, if such removal 
should be desirable. The objection to floats of wood is 
the danger of their being destroyed by the worm ; but, 
many years before, Sir Samuel had caused wood steeped in 
oil to be sunk for experiment in Plymouth dockyard, and 
it was found to have remained untouched after a long 
period, though similar pieces of timber, unoiled, were soon 
destroyed ; so that on a moderate calculation of the com- 
pound interest on the money to be sunk on the proposed 
breakwater, compared to that on the floating one, the 
latter might be occasionally repaired, and eventually re- 
newed, still leaving a great balance in favour of the float- 
ing breakwater. 

Time has shown that Sir Samuel's apprehensions have 
been verified. The breakwater which was scarcely needed 
has been constructed ; it has not only covered the best 
anchoring ground; but Causand Bay, which formerly 
afforded so much shelter, has been so much disturbed by 
the current now driven through it, that ships can no longer 
take refuge there. In bad weather merchant vessels have 
been driven upon the artificial rock and lost. The Sound 
is no longer a roadstead for ships seeking refuge in foul 
weather, since behind the breakwater vessels require to be 
piloted in, and when there, if numerous, they must be 
placed by a harbour-master. The long sea slope has 
proved incapable of. resisting storms, so that ten or twelve 
thousand a year has been spent upon it for repair ; and 
for the protection of the lighthouse, it has been neces- 
sary to have recourse to an upright wall at that part of 
the long slope. 



The breakwater, from its immense cost, from the length 
of time which its execution has required, and from its 
imposing appearance, has in public estimation been re- 
garded as an important and beneficial work : but the prac- 
tical benefit derived from it is far outweighed by the mis- 
chief it has caused, and which in a time of war * will be 
still more fully disclosed. 

* See Report of Dover Harbour Commission, and Appendix. 



Designs for Chatham — Improvements in Dredging Machines — Inadequate 
Assistance in carrying out his Designs — "Works at Portsmouth — Ply- 
mouth Breakwater — His Office abolished — Eemuneration and Com- 
pensation — Counter-Claims of the Navy Board — Continued Designs — 
Sheerness — Employment of Women — Anonymous Charges — Departure 
for France, 1814— Eeturn of Napoleon from Elba — Bemoval to Tours 
and Paris — Death of his Eldest Son, 1816 — Journey to Angouleme — 
Eeturn to England, 1827 — Fate of the Experimental Vessels, Arrow, Net- 
ley, Eling, &c. — Transport Service — Interest of Money sunk in Public 
Works — Form of Vessels — Payment of the Navy — Illness and Death. 

The previous narrative renders it unnecessary to detail 
with like fulness the operations or plans in which Bentham 
was subsequently engaged. It has already brought into 
view the extent and the nature of his services ; it has 
shown that his calculations were grounded on the soundest 
science and the truest economy, and has disclosed the 
many influences which were at work to thwart changes in 
old practices, or the introduction of new methods which 
could not fail to secure a vast saving to the nation and in- 
creased efficiency in the public service. An amount of 
neglect or opposition, which would have roused the anger 
or chilled the energies of weaker men, could not deter him 
from carrying on his arduous labours in every subject 
which came within the compass of his duty. 

The rejection of his plans did not prevent him from 
rendering valuable aid in carrying out those which were 
preferred to his own. When the Admiralty had come to a 
determination to enlarge the dockvard at Sheerness rather 
than construct any new naval arsenal to the eastward, he 
directed his efforts towards rendering Chatham efficiently 

u 2 


subservient to Sheerness. He had known the place well 
from his boyhood, having there passed the greater part of 
his apprenticeship, during which he had been, as he said in 
a letter to Lord Spencer, "a great navigator of the Medway." 
The outline of his designs is given in a paper entitled i( Im- 
provements proposed for the Port of Chatham." Among 
these are specified the straightening the course of the river 
Medway from its mouth up to Rochester bridge — the afford- 
ing a basin contiguous to the dockyard capable of holding 
fifty or sixty sail of the line — the affording a similar basin 
for private trade near the town of Rochester, as well as other 
basins capable of holding the whole navy — the providing two 
channels from Sheerness harbour up to Chatham dockyard 
and the town of Rochester, in which channels of still water 
vessels may sail when the wind is favourable but the tide 
in the natural channel adverse, or wherein they may be 
rowed, towed, or warped when both wind and tide are ad- 
verse in the central channel — the affording a great increase 
of backwater for scouring and deepening the bed of the 
river up to the capital. By this plan, among other results, 
the ground dug out of the cut for the secondary river 
would serve to widen the existing river walls, not only for 
the roadway, but for habitation or other purposes; and, being 
situated between the two rivers, would acquire an extra- 
ordinary value. 

In executing such extensive works, both as regarded 
security of the works themselves and their economical per- 
formance, his well-proved success gave him confidence 
for the future. His dredging machine was working well 
in twenty-seven feet water at Sheerness; by degrees im- 
proved apparatus had been added to it ; and for the for- 
mation of new ground, the mud barges which he had pro- 
posed in the year 1800 were competent to the delivery 
of mud or soil at a considerable height above the level 
of the water in which they floated. To render the 
steam dredging vessel and its apparatus competent to 
work in very shallow water, or even on dry land, he 


further contrived a modification of this vessel by which, 
when put to clear away high banks of mud, or even to 
dig and raise solid ground, the vessel with its apparatus 
would, as it advanced, clear a channel for itself. 

There is no doubt but that the public service would 
have derived much greater benefit from the exercise of 
Bentham's genius if he had been properly supported. 
But his department would not supply adequate assist- 
ance for carrying on even the usual routine of its business. 
He therefore proposed that he might be allowed to en- 
gage for a short time, at a guinea a day, Mr. Edmund 
Aikin, who had shown by his publications that he had 
studied both ancient and modern architecture, and who was 
willing, and from his practical experience capable, of fol- 
lowing up Sir Samuel's ideas of economy. Sir Samuel had 
grounded this proposal on the fact of his having several im- 
portant works to plan, and that he (to use his own words) 
" looked upon it as very desirable, after so much of the 
design for a public work is determined on as depends on 
considerations of use, that more attention should be paid 
than hitherto has been in regard to the works of my de- 
partment, particularly those relative to the dockyards, to 
the giving them an appropriate beauty and grandeur of 
appearance." The Admiralty replied that they were "not 
aware of any buildings or works ordered to be taken in 
hand which require any particular beauty or grandeur of 
appearance, and therefore cannot comply with the request 
of the civil architect and engineer, who has already suffi- 
cient assistance to carry on the duties of his office." 

The assistance he asked for being refused, he determined 
to engage Mr. Aikin at his oivn expense, to receive him in 
his house and at his table, as well as an additional draughts- 
man, at the cost of three guineas a day for months — a sum 
exceeding the amount of the salary he was himself receiving. 

His attention at this time was devoted to the com- 
pletion of his designs for Sheerness. In their fulness of 

U 3 


minute detail they embrace every want which applies to 
arsenals in general, while they specially provide for the 
particular requirements at Sheerness. Soon after these 
designs were transmitted to the Navy Board, he was called 
upon to state what service he was employed on at Ports- 
mouth. In reply he mentioned, among many other sub- 
jects, the testing of copper sheathing, about which doubts 
had again been raised ; the extension of metal mills, the 
design for an enlarged millwright's shop, seasoning-houses, 
covered docks, &c. 

Not long afterwards, the Comptroller of the Navy wrote 
that "Mr. Whitbread has moved for copies of all your 
minutes in regard to the breakwater in Plymouth Sound ; 
they have been all sent to the Admiralty, in pursuance of 
the order of the House of. Commons, but Mr. Whitbread 
altered his order last night, and contents himself with hav- 
ing those of the 24th September and the 4th October last, 
with the estimate attached ; and they alone were presented 
by Mr. Croker and ordered to be printed." The day fol- 
lowing he learnt from a friend that the rest were withheld, 
as containing reflections on Mr. Eennie. This fear of laying 
such "reflections" before the public might, perhaps, be 
taken as a proof of their justice. Had they been false, their 
refutation would certainly have followed their examina- 
tion in the House of Commons. The papers so withheld he 
forwarded to Mr. Abbot, Speaker of the House of Commons, 
who in his letter in reply said, — " As to Eennie's credit 
with the Admiralty Board, and his discredit with the Navy 
Board, it seems to me that you are called upon by every 
motive, official and personal, to discuss his plans and pro- 
ceedings, although it is not improbable that the premature 
and apparently irregular favour given by the Admiralty to 
his projects may have made them more angry at the 
freedom with which his conduct was treated in the paper 
(22nd August)." Again : " In truth the Board collectively, 
as well as yourself individually, would make but a sorry 


figure upon any investigation of this business, if it should 
appear that all or any of you had, in disregard of antece- 
dent practice, and dereliction of your specific duties, 
abstained from making every representation upon so im- 
portant a concern which your official judgment dictated." 
Many other subjects were discussed in the same long letter. 
At its end the Speaker adds, — " I will not conclude upon 
the main subject without adding that I do not regret your 
not having had your expected audience of Mr. Yorke, for 
be assured that you do yourself infinitely more justice 
by delivering yourself in writing, than by any personal 
conference. Few men surpass you in clearness and strength 
of statement upon paper of whatever you wish should 
make a deep and lasting impression ; but in audiences and 
conferences a thousand accidental circumstances may pre- 
vent anybody (and you quite as much as anybody I know) 
from saying all that he intended, or in the way intended ; 
and nothing can insure that a conversation is rightly un- 
derstood or remembered." 

His endeavours to provide a complete naval arsenal to 
the eastward were followed by the adoption of Mr. Eennie's 
plans for Sheerness. It is but justice, therefore, to Sir 
Samuel to give a comparison of the estimated expense of 
each design, and the accommodations which they respec- 
tively afforded, — this comparison having been made at 
the time, 1812 : — 

According to According to Sir 

Mr. Rennie's plan. Samuel Bentham's plan. 





Estimated expense .... £1,762,495 

Ordinary docks ..... 3 

Completely covered and enclosed docks 

for the largest ships . . . None . 

Docks for occasional use for the largest 

ships None . 

Docks for frigates .... 1 . 

Wharfage in the interior of a basin where- 
at ships of the line could lie to fit . 4 . 

Length of the above wharfage in feet . 1,600 

Wharfage towards the river for vessels 
of different draughts to lie at low as 
well as at high water . . Less than 800 . . 1,300 

U 4 




As to the estimate, Mr. Rennie's was an estimate in the 
usual way, but it was accompanied with expressions of 
apprehension that from the badness of the ground un- 
looked-for sources of expenditure might arise. Sir 
Samuel's estimate, on the contrary, for the under-water 
works on the bad soil, was based on prices for which the 
same contractors offered to contract, — engaging at the 
same time to run all risks. 

Shortly after that, whilst confined at home by illness, 
but still labouring in his official duty, he received notice 
that the office he held at the Navy Board was abolished ! 
He had not before had the most distant or slightest hint 
that such a measure had been in contemplation. 

The abolition had been sanctioned by an order in 
Council, dated the 28th November, 1812, and the fact was 
communicated to Sir Samuel by the following letter from 
the First Lord of the Admiralty: — 

" Admiralty, December 3rd, 1812. 
"Sir, — An Order in Council having been issued, directing 
that a new arrangement of the Navy Board shall take place, 
w r herebv the civil architect and engineer is no longer to be a 
member of that Board, and the office is abolished, I would 
suggest to you the propriety of soliciting from the Prince Regent 
such remuneration for your services and compensation for the 
loss of your office as his Royal Highness in Council may be 
pleased to allow. I shall be happy to render any assistance in 
my power towards your obtaining such allowance to a proper 
and reasonable extent ; and as you will now be at liberty to 
offer your professional services to the public at large, I have no 
doubt but that the Navy Board will be ready to avail themselves 
of your skill, whenever the work to be performed shall be of 
such a nature as in their opinion to require your advice and 
superintendence. " I am, Sir, 

" Your most obedient and humble servant, 

" Melville." 

The latter part of this communication might have been 
construed as an intended insult, had not the preceding 


sentences manifested good will. Architecture and civil 
engineering never could have been considered as Sir 
Samuel's profession. Naval architecture might have 
been so termed, but his profession, if any particular one, 
was military. Astonished and hurt though he certainly 
was on perusal of this communication, he immediately 
requested Lord Melville's instructions as to the mode in 
which he should apply to the Prince Eegent. His Lord- 
ship, on the 5th, " recommended his presenting a memo- 
rial at the Council Office, founded on the Order in Council. 
In the usual course of business in that department it 
would be referred to the Board of Admiralty for their 

The abolition of the office was not communicated to 
the Navy Board till the 5th December. 

He immediately submitted the memorial. 

That Lord Melville was sincerely desirous of amply re- 
munerating Sir Samuel for his services there cannot be a 
doubt. His Lordship took measures to effect this purpose in 
a manner which seemed most friendly and satisfactory, 
by desiring to see Sir Samuel's near connection and friend 
the Speaker, who declined the interview, and stated his 
reason for so doing. 

"Admiralty, December 11$, 1812. 

" My dear Sir, — My motive for wishing to converse with you 
on the subject of Commissioner Bentham's situation, was a desire 
to promote his interest, and remunerate his services to as great 
an extent as the circumstances of the case would allow. He has, 
at my suggestion, presented a memorial to Council, praying a 
compensation for his services; and it was upon the amount of 
that allowance that I wished to have had the pleasure of seeing 
you, being desirous that it should, if possible, be equal to the 
expectations of himself and his friends. 

" I have the honour to be, my dear Sir, 

" Your very faithful and obedient servant, 


" The Right Hon. the Speaker." 


But the question of Sir Samuel's compensation and re- 
muneration liugered on, and the Speaker, in a letter to Sir 
Samuel Kidbrook (3rd January, 1813), says, — "I have 
not heard one word from Lord Melville, or of course I 
should have told you." 

" Perhaps you will begin to think I was not very wrong 
in declining the verbal invitation to a conference with the 
First Lord ; for even when solicited in writing, it does not 
appear to have been very rapid in its productiveness. But 
silence on all this business is best. Anything more may 
do harm, and give your opponents a handle which they 
seem quite ready to lay hold of." 

On the 12th February Sir Samuel was informed that 
the Prince Eegent had referred his memorial for the con- 
sideration and opinion of the Admiralty, and that their 
Lordships desired him to state his age and the time he 
had been in the service, specifying the different offices in 
which he had served. 

On receipt of this, he was advised at the same time to 
submit to their Lordships a brief statement of the services 
he had rendered. This necessarily was a work of some 
time, as he determined not to mention any one of them 
without reference to the official written documents in 
relation to each, so that it was not till the 31st March 
that he was enabled to comply with their Lordships' 

In this paper, after giving full details, he submitted 
that his was not a case of superannuation. It was not on 
the score of age, infirmity, or incapacity that compensa- 
tion had been prayed for, but in consequence of the abo- 
lition of the office he held by patent. 

He urged that he had pursued the course pointed out 
by him for the effecting naval improvements at his oivn 
personal expense, without receiving any salary or pecuniary 
aid from the public purse, — that he was placed in both 
the offices he held, without any solicitation of his own ; that 


he had been allowed to expect that a salary of 2000/. 
a year would be assigned to him ; and that " it was in 
the persuasion that I should receive this salary that I 
relinquished the emoluments and honours that awaited me 
in the service of a foreign power." 

He continued: "As to remuneration for services, I 
cannot but hope that it will be grounded on a considera- 
tion of the benefits which the public has derived from my 
services. For the purpose, therefore, of enabling their 
Lordships to take a view of them with the more fa- 
cility, I have drawn up a statement, which I take the 
liberty of submitting herewith to their Lordships' con- 

He added that in this statement he had not noticed any 
services that could be called in the regular line of his duty, 
" but have confined myself to such services as originated in 
myself, and being of a kind for the non-rendering of 
which no blame could have attached to me." 

Sir Samuel put a copy of these papers into the Speaker's 
hands ; but it was not till the 5th May that he returned 
them, saying, " Unexpectedly I found some hours yester- 
day which I could employ in reading the enclosed papers. 
I am highly gratified by their contents. 

" Upon the scrap of paper which accompanies this note 
you will see some typographical queries which, if you 
can make them out, may be worth your attention." Some 
recommendations as to particulars of proceedings fol- 

The " scrap of paper " noted fifteen different pages from 
the general title to page 166,--- a proof that the Speaker 
had perused the whole with attention ; and at the bottom 
of that scrap he wrote,— "A noble Monument of Sagacity, 
Industry, and Perseverance." 

The eulogium was gratifying, and showed that the at- 
tention which the Speaker paid to Bentham's case was 
founded upon a personal investigation of its real merits. 


Time passed on. Sir Samuel's salary was at an end, 
and neither compensation nor remuneration was granted ; 
so that on the 19th May he wrote to the Speaker, begging 
him now to endeavour to ascertain whether the settle- 
ment were likely to take place which Lord Melville had 
promised to bring to a satisfactory and speedy conclusion. 
The Speaker on the 20th enclosed it to his Lordship, re- 
questing his attention to it, — " As," he said, " I take a very 
sincere concern in what respects General Bentham's situa- 
tion and interests, I cannot forbear expressing my earnest 
hope that your Lordship's favourable intentions towards 
him may be now carried into effect." 

His Lordship the same day wrote in answer, — " I do not 
wonder at General Bentham's beginning to feel that a very 
long delay has occurred in bringing his business to a close. 
A Bill, however, is preparing on which I have had some 
conversation with Mr. Yansittart, and have desired Mr. 
Croker to settle with him as to the bringing it forward. 
There seemed to be a doubt some days ago as to whether 
it ought to be confined to the Naval Department, or ex- 
tended to all other branches of the public service where 
pensions were to be given by order in Council, and after- 
wards voted annually in the naval estimates. The latter 
seems a very innocent and safe power to leave in the hands 
of the Crown ; and I can scarcely think it was intended to 
be taken away." 

In a conference which the Speaker had had with Lord 
Melville, his Lordship said that he considered that the full 
salary of office should be granted as compensation for its 
loss. As to remuneration for extra services, when the 
Speaker enumerated some of the most important of them, 
Lord Melville exclaimed, on the mention of the metal 
mills, " There he stands upon a rock."* 

The next document is a letter from his Lordship to the 
Speaker (11th June, 1813), in which he says, — "I cannot 

* This was related to Sir Samuel by the Speaker. 


come to the conclusion that I shall be able to propose 
more for him than the annual allowance which I men- 
tioned to you ;" and in reference to remuneration for extra 
services, after speaking of the need there would be to go 
to parliament, he adds that, independent of that, " I think 
we should find it an awkward precedent to deal with." He 
added, " I am very desirous to have the matter of the pen- 
sion settled in the first place," and said that Mr. Croker 
had given notice of the Bill to be brought to amend the 
Superannuation Act, adding in a postscript, — "I think I 
formerly mentioned to you that I should not deem it just 
that his income should be diminished in consequence of 
the abolition of his office." 

The Speaker communicated this letter the same evening 
to Sir Samuel, who replied on the following noon : — 

" It is some consolation to have such an assurance that 
my income will not be diminished in consequence of the 
abolition of my office, and I trust that the manner of doing 
it will make the 'pension free of all deductions, or make it 
nominal in amount sufficient to cover them, and that I 
shall receive this pension from the day when my salary 

"It also gives me much satisfaction to see that Lord 
Melville seems to admit that my services are not unworthy 
of distinct remuneration, whatever may be the difficulties 
to be encountered in the obtaining it. As to the prece- 
dent it would afford, considering it in a general point of 
view, without regard to my particular case, the rewarding 
any extra and separate services so clearly beyond what 
are required by the tenor of an official appointment — as 
documents will show my services to have been — could not 
but prove highly beneficial to the public, since a public 
officer would thereby have grounds to hope that by exert- 
ing himself beyond the ordinary duties of his situation, 
he might obtain for his family some provision propor- 
tionate to what he might otherwise have realised had he 


employed the same exertions for his own private emolu- 

These opinions Sir Samuel had entertained from a very 
early period of life ; and the greater his insight became into 
the management of public concerns, the stronger became his 
conviction that, to induce men of real intelligence to enter 
or continue in the service of the public, it was essential to 
hold out to them examples in which extraordinary abilities 
and extraordinary industry should be specially rewarded. 
The want of such a prospect has actually driven many able 
men to quit the public service and embark in private trade. 
Yet examples are not wanting where Government has ac- 
corded remuneration for extraordinary services. 

On the 13th the Speaker, addressing Lord Melville, said, 
— " As to the remuneration General Bentham claims, and 
the difficulties stated by your Lordship, they seem to be so 
much balanced, that I do not, for my own part, see what is 
to be done for the present ; and that subject, I should think, 
must necessarily be reserved for subsequent consideration, 
although it is impossible for General Bentham to acquiesce 
in any imputation on his conduct which might result from 
the abolition of his office, or to allow that he has been an 
unprofitable servant to the public. 

"The impediments, however, to the allowance of his 
claims for remuneration, and also to the allowance of his 
other claims for the expenses of his Russian mission 
(which expenses the Navy Board have not thought them- 
selves at liberty to allow), place General Bentham alto- 
gether in a situation of considerable hardship. And I should 
hope that the very difficulty of recompensing his services, 
which are not denied to have been meritorious, may induce 
your Lordship the more willingly to render him every 
just assistance in obtaining or scrutinising the payment of 
what he considers to be a strict debt from the public on 
his Kussian accounts, and for which I understand he has 
already memorialised the Treasury." 


Sir Samuel's claims on account of the Eussian mission 
arose from the disallowance by the Navy Board of the 
monthly sum which he had charged, conformably to the 
promise of ministers on sending him to that country. 

His accounts had shown that a sum of 5308/. 18s. 3c?. 
was due to him ; but the Navy Board having recommended 
that his allowance should amount to less than half the sum 
which, on the faith of ministers, he had depended on, stated, 
on the contrary, that a balance of 816?. 14s. 2^d. was due 
from him to the public. They had repeatedly required him 
to repay that sum, and at length informed him that, if not 
paid by a certain day, he would be proceeded against 
legally. But, fully convinced of the justice of his claims, 
he replied that his reasons for not paying in that sum 
were that, " having accepted that mission under certain 
promises which still appear to me to have entitled me to 
the balance stated in my accounts, I have intended, and 
still intend, to present a memorial on the subject." 

It was not, however, till the 30th December, 1815, that 
the Navy Board acquainted him that "the Admiralty, 
having signified to us, by their order dated the 11th ultimo, 
that they have had under their deliberate consideration the 
whole of the papers on the subject of the balance claimed 
by you on your accounts during the time you were employed 
in Eussia for the purpose of building ships for His Ma- 
jesty's service, — together with the opinion of the Attorney 
and Solicitor-General and Counsel for the affairs of the 
Admiralty, ' that the reference which was made to Count 
Woronzoff, with his decision thereon, is binding as to the 
rate of allowance which tvas to be made to you ; ' and 
having been pleased to allow your claims to the following 
extent" (here follow details of accounts) "we have to inform 
you that, in consequence of these directions, we have caused 
a bill to be made out to you in payment of 3467?. Ss. 8c?., 
as shown by the enclosed statement." 

This decision of their Lordships disallowed interest on 


the sum due to Sir Samuel, which, for the many years he 
had been deprived of the capital, was a very serious pecu- 
niary loss to him. Up to this time (the end of 1815) 
the interest, reckoned at 5 per cent., amounted to upwards 
of 1600/. Nor was this the only pecuniary loss which 
he had sustained in consequence of the mission. He had 
been obliged at the outset to sell about 2000/. worth of 
investments in the public funds to provide the outfit for 
the mission. This was sold at the low war prices of 1805 ; 
its repayment was now at a time of peace, when stocks 
had risen, so that the repurchase into the public funds of 
the sum which he had withdrawn for this service was made 
at a heavy loss. 

But this transaction affords another example of the in- 
conceivable disregard which the Naval Department exhibits 
of the value of the interest on capital, — inconceivable, be- 
cause so great a portion of the annual sums which Govern- 
ment has to provide is, on the very face of the annual budget, 
to pay interest on capital borrowed by the State. It has 
been seen that Sir Samuel repeatedly exhibited, but with- 
out avail, the losses habitually sustained by the public 
from a disregard in the Naval Department of the value of 
interest on money. 

Even his arrears of salary, now a twelvemonth overdue, 
had not been paid ; but, habitually limiting his expenses to 
the extent of his means, he reduced his establishment 
to the utmost, and contrived to exist, without debt or 
encroachment on capital, till at length the Admiralty de- 
termined that his pension should be to the amount of what 
he had hitherto received from Government, namely 1000/. 
a year as Commissioner of the Navy, with the addition of 
an allowance of 500/., but both only nominal sums, sub- 
ject to considerable deductions. 

It might be supposed that this pension even had been 
granted, not on the merits of the case, but owing to the 
interest felt and expressed by the Speaker. But the 


letters above quoted prove that not even the efforts of one 
so politically situated as the Speaker, and so eminently 
distinguished for uprightness as a man, could outweigh 
the hostile efforts of persons whose interests had been 
unavoidably thwarted by Sir Samuel for the public be- 

It was notorious that many officers in the Civil Depart- 
ment of the Navy profited more or less by presents, if not 
by what could properly be denominated bribes. Sir Samuel 
on various occasions had been proffered emoluments to 
influence his opinion, and customary percentages from 
merchants. It, therefore, occurred to him immediately on 
the abolition of his office, that he would follow the ex- 
ample afforded by Lord Macartney (as stated in Barrow's 
life of that nobleman, when he left his government at 
Madras, and again on his giving up his government at the 
Cape), and make a similar declaration on oath. Accordingly 
he declared on oath, — " That although in this country and 
in Russia various proffers have been made me, directly and 
indirectly, of shares of profits, percentages, and presents 
from persons, on the eligibilhVy of whose proposals I have 
had to give opinions, whose bills I have had to check, on 

the fitness of whose works I have had to judge yet I 

never have, during the time I have held those offices, 
directly or indirectly, derived any emolument whatever 
beyond my public and official salary and allowances." 

This declaration made on oath, and duly verified in the 
customary manner, was sent by Sir Samuel to Lord Melville. 

After the first surprise occasioned by the abolition of 
the office had passed away, and the mortification, it may 
be added, that eminent services should thus be treated, 
Sir Samuel occupied himself assiduously in completing 
his statements in regard to the proposals that had been 
referred to him. 

He also drew up a paper on the employment of females, 
having observed and lamented the depravity of a large 



proportion of the female population at our great seaports ; 
and this was not confined to the very lowest class, but un- 
fortunately, in too many instances, extended upwards to 
the daughters of workmen in the dockyards, where they 
were exposed to much temptation. Even the bringing 
their fathers' dinners to the dockyard was a pernicious 
practice, as leading them abroad, and unsettling them 
for steady occupation at their homes. After much reflec- 
tion, he felt assured that, by affording useful and remu- 
nerative employment to young women, many might be 
kept out of temptation's way, while their earnings would 
much assist the parents of numerous families. It was a 
most difficult attempt to make : general opinion was against 
it, as well as that of some of the persons most devoted to 
him, who foresaw the opposition to be encountered. He 
had, however, determined to make the attempt, had his 
ropery and sail-cloth manufactory been established. There 
were some parts of the work to be performed quite suitable 
for female hands and strength. He proposed to place women 
only as superintendents of those operations, and to have no 
admixture of boys or men. He had, besides, in view the 
extension of this manufactory to the making up of such 
articles as sacks and bags and colours, and, by degrees, to 
that of slops generally, — articles which are known to 
be often so ill put together as to require more or less 

With these minutes terminated Sir Samuel's communi- 
cations with the Navy Board, as required by the duties 
of his late office. He thus concisely called attention to 
objects of public interest, though he could no longer have 
a part in carrying them into effect. 

This duty to the public done, his last letter to the Board 
became a duty, as he said, " I owe to myself," to take his 
own words from that letter. An anonymous letter on the 
subject of the works at Sheerness, addressed to the Right 
Honourable Spencer Percival, and transmitted by the Ad- 


miralty to the Navy Board, had contained aspersions on 
his probity. He was absent from town on the receipt of 
that letter ; and on his return it was only accidentally that 
he heard of it, when, on expressing his intention of making 
some observations on it to exonerate him, his colleagues 
assured him that no suspicions to his prejudice could be 
entertained on the subject, either by the Board or by their 
Lordships, so that he did not withdraw time from the 
business of his office for the purpose of answering that 
attack upon him. " But now, however, on the abolition of 
the office of Civil Architect and Surveyor, it has become a 
duty I owe to myself to have a written record, showing the 
total want of foundation for the unjustifiable assertions 
contained in the builder's letter." 

The accusations brought against him had been that he 
had connived at and caused a private offer to be made for 
the carrying on the works at Sheerness ; that it ope- 
rated to the exclusion of all other builders ; that he had 
artfully contrived to get this offer made through the resi- 
dent Commissioner ; that though it was his duty to pro- 
mote competition, he had prevented it by recommending 
work to be done by persons (known and responsible), 
instead of taking the lowest offer by public tender. 

In a full and minute reply he showed the impossibility 
of any artful connivance by a reference to letters and 
documents ; and that, so far from having prevented compe- 
tition, he had been more successful in regard to those 
works in obtaining offers for their execution at lower prices 
a than it is usual to expect from any officer in the public 
service, or to find effected in regard to public works of 
this nature." 

And further, for' the satisfaction of his friends, he drew 
up and published a statement of his services, copies of 
which he forwarded, amongst others, to the Earls Spencer, 
Liverpool, Grey, and Mulgrave, as well as to Mr. Croker 

x 2 


and Mr. George Eose. From the Eight Honourable Thos. 
Grenville, who had been First Lord of the Admiralty 
during his absence in Eussia, he received the following 
reply : — 

" Cleveland Square, 6th Jul//, 1813. 
'* Dear Sir, — I have this moment received the favour of your 
note, together with the book which accompanied it, for which I 
beg to offer my best acknowledgments. Nobody who has been 
connected in any degree with the details of the naval service in 
later years can be ignorant of the advantages which it has 
derived from your exertions. I shall be sorry, for the sake of 
that service, if the statement which you publish announces a 
probable close of your labours in it. I should be sorry, for your 
sake, if I could believe that there was any danger of liberal 
remuneration being withheld from laborious and meritorious 
service, such as yours has been." 

The fatigue and anxiety attendant on his endeavours 
to promote the interest of that branch of the service to 
which he belonged had materially injured his health. 
When in the following year the King of France was 
restored, and the continent became open, he was advised 
to try the effects of a warmer climate, and temporary 
absence was thought desirable from scenes where his ser- 
vices had merited both reward and consideration, but 
where of late his best endeavours had been thwarted or 
repressed. To give his sons an opportunity of seeing 
France and Italy before the age at which a steady applica- 
tion to their future profession would be requisite, afforded 
another reason for spending two or three years abroad. 
In the autumn, therefore, of 1814, he embarked, with all 
his family, from Portsmouth for Havre. 

France at that time appeared in an aspect totally differ- 
ent from what he had seen it under the ancient rqjime, and 
wholly unlike what in the course of a few years it became. 
At the time of his landing, the people generally were 
enthusiastic in their eulogies of the English ; officials, as 


well as others, were anxious to show their good will ; 
so that at the custom-house his baggage, including some 
plate and other articles,' either prohibited or subject to 
high duties, were passed free. He had intended to remain 
for a time at Blois; but he heard on the spot that the 
winters were severe — sometimes cold enough for the river 
to be frozen over at the bridge ; and as he could find 
nothing suitable at Tours, he went down the Loire, and 
took a furnished house at an easy distance from Saumur, 
in which he established himself for the winter, providing 
good masters for his children, and making acquaintance 
with several families of the neighbourhood. Towards spring 
of the following year, signs of some contemplated move- 
ment for the restoration of Buonaparte began to appear. 
Under the pretext of selling needles, petty pedlars in- 
sinuated themselves into the cottages of the peasantry 
and little farmers, vaunting the glory which the nation 
had acquired under the Emperor. Some of these men 
were supposed to be able men of a higher class, disguised 
with a view to influence the opinions of the rural popula- 
tion. Others, probably agents meditating a revolution, 
sang ballads to the disparagement of Louis XVIIL, to ren- 
der him ridiculous in the eyes of the people ; one especially 
represented the monarch as a potato-eater. Potatoes were 
not for many years afterwards in common use, and they 
were despised as an article of food. After a little time 
tokens of approaching insurrection appeared in higher 
classes : the Sous-Prefet of Saumur, at a ball during the 
carnival, had his apartments ornamented with bees in the 
hangings ; this was shortly before the 1st of March. The 
decoration was applauded, of course, by Buonapartists, but 
severely commented on by Royalists. A pleasurable agita- 
tion was apparent in the one party, anxious dismay in the 
other. At length, when the landing of the Emperor was 
known, his adherents were active, and Sir Samuel felt it 
but prudent to escape from a place which seemed likely 

x 3 


to be a seat of war. He therefore applied for and obtained, 
through his friend the Count de Segur, a special passport 
from the Minister of the Interior for his safe and free pas- 
sage across France to any of the other continental states. 
By the time it arrived, matters had assumed a warlike 
aspect in the surrounding country. The discharge of mus- 
ketry, sometimes of cannon, was occasionally heard in the 
neighbourhood. Men, evidently from the whiteness and 
delicacy of their hands gentlemen, but disguised in the 
peasant's dress, came inquiring the way to some town or vil- 
lage in La Vendee. All boats on the Loire were withdrawn, 
and the passage of the bridge across it was about to be inter- 
dicted, when Sir Samuel and his family took their departure. 
By this time the influx of English families had been consi- 
derable in many parts of France ; Tours was particularly 
chosen by many as a place of temporary residence; and, as 
might be expected under such circumstances, British sub- 
jects easily made acquaintance with each other. On con- 
sultation with them, there appeared to be less danger in 
remaining there than there would be in travelling through 
the eastern frontiers, which were about to be the seat of 
war. The whole family remained quietly in a country 
house near that town. 

One night, after the battle of Waterloo, the noise of a 
carriage passing rapidly over the bridge was loud enough to 
wake the family, though half a mile distant, — it was so re- 
markable that it attracted the notice of all. It was Buona- 
parte himself flying for his freedom and his life. The 
reinstatement of Louis XVIII. made little change at Tours 
beyond that of again turning the board, on one side of which 
was painted " Rue de la Republique," on the other " Rue 
Royale." All was tranquil and seemed to promise peace, 
till a part of the Imperial army was sent from the north to 
Tours. These troops seemed from their first arrival dis- 
contented and menacing; a day was fixed for the celebra- 
tion of a " Te Deum " in the cathedral on the reinstate- 


ment of the king. In the way to the cathedral, by some 
back streets, groups of this Annee de la Loire, as it 
was called, were seen scowling and whispering with each 
other; and in the sacred building itself, an appearance of 
general uneasiness rendered it prudent for an Englishman 
to return home. The next day a kind of domiciliary visit 
was made by officers of this army to houses suspected to be 
adverse to them, and altogether matters bore a threatening 
appearance. Sir Samuel again decamped, going by Le 
Mans to Paris. At Le Mans all was enthusiasm for the 
king. He found Paris in the occupation of the allies. 
His friend Count Michel, now Prince Woronzoff, had a 
high command in the Eussian army. Sir Samuel had 
the pleasure of renewing acquaintance with him and 
many old friends, amongst others the Duke de Richelieu, 
now at the head of the ministry, the Count de Segur 
and his sons, Monsieur de la Harpe, Count and Baron de 
Damas, the Duke de Liancourt. On his first calling on the 
Duke de Richelieu he would not give his name, from a 
fancy to see whether some twenty years had so altered 
him as to prevent his being recognised. They met at 
first as strangers ; but almost instantly the Duke, French 
fashion, threw his arms round him, exclaiming, " Mon 
cher Bentham." From this time to his Grace's death 
an intimate friendly intercourse subsisted between them. 
The Duke, as a young man, had been remarkable for a 
soberness of manner, thought, and conduct different from 
the generality of young Frenchmen. Bentham used to 
tell him he was the only Frenchman he had ever known 
to arrive at years of discretion before thirty. Amongst 
the English with whom he associated, were his old friends 
Lord and Lady Colchester : he also made acquaintance 
with the great traveller Baron von Humboldt, and many 
other scientific men of different nations. The autumn 
and early part of the winter were spent most agreeably 
in such society ; but a fatal blow was awaiting him. His 

x 4 


eldest son, a most promising youth of sixteen, was seized 
with a lingering malady, and died in March of the year 
1816. The father bore the loss with resignation, but his 
sufferings were acute. Many a little incident, and many 
a scrap of an unfinished letter, found after his own death, 
bear testimony to the depth of his sorrow. When his boy 
was interred, it was the father who threw the first earth 
upon the coffin. 

All his plans were now disarranged, but his own health 
seemed to require a warmer climate. The illness of a 
daughter forbade immediate travelling; but he removed 
from the scene of his loss to Arcueil, where, lodged in a part 
of Monsieur Berthollet's chateau, he had opportunity of 
seeing many scientific friends of that distinguished chemist. 
Among those of Madame Berthollet was Voltaire's " belle 
and bonne," who paid a weekly visit of a couple of days. 
The lady, tall and thin, was still active, and retained the 
manners of the old regime. 

Previously to setting out for the south, the Duke de 
Eichelieu gave him letters of introduction to the Prefets 
of all the departments through which he had any chance 
of passing. 

A visit of a few days to Count Chaptal and his family 
near Amboise was very interesting. He possessed a large 
fund of scientific knowledge, and communicated it agree- 
ably ; and his manufactory of beet-root sugar was in full 
activity,— its products excellent. 

On arriving at Angouleme, autumn was too far ad- 
vanced for further progress that year ; the town afforded 
agreeable society, into which he was introduced at the 
Prefet's table. He therefore hired a furnished house 
half a mile from the town, and took possession of it for 
winter quarters. 

Sir Samuel Eentham remained on the continent till 
1827 ; but his retirement did not cool his ardour for 
improvements in the department of his predilection — 


the naval. After an absence of twelve years he returned 
home, with the determination of publishing some essays 
which he had in preparation, accompanied by a variety of 
documents, chiefly selected from his official papers. 

His experimental vessels had all of them, with the ex- 
ception of the Eling, come to their end in actual service. 
The Arrow in 1805, her complement (including a dozen 
passengers) being 132 men and boys, was in company 
with the bomb vessel Acheron in the Mediterranean, and 
had thirty-two merchantmen from Malta under con- 
voy, when, with the Acheron, she attacked two French 
frigates, the Hortense and the Incorruptible,— each of 
forty guns, and with a complement of 640 men. After 
a close action of an hour and twenty minutes, the 
Arrow, being much disabled, and compelled to strike, 
settled on her beam ends, and went down, but not without 
rendering the French frigates unfit for service. The 
vessels under convoy were saved by this gallant action; 
and in consequence the captain of the Arrow was posted 
as his reward. However brave, no officer in any other 
sloop, supported only by a bomb vessel, would have ven- 
tured to attack two frigates of such force as were the 
Hortense and Incorruptible. 

The Dart, after having been thirteen years in active 
service, was taken to pieces at the Barbadoes, 1809, for what 
reason no information could be obtained, but probably 
from damage received in action. 

The Eedbridge was unfortunately wrecked in 1808, but 
the circumstances are not known. 

The Millbrook was said also to have been wrecked, but 
the vessel to which this accident happened was a merchant- 
man of the same name. It is not known how long she 
continued in serviee. 

The Netley, after ten years' active service, was captured 
in the West Indies by the French frigate Thetis, accom- 
panied by the brig Sylphe ; was afterwards retaken, and 


employed again in the British service under the name of 

Lastly, the Elingwas broken up at Portsmouth in the year 
1814, having been not less than eighteen years in service. 
As this occurred after the time of the abolition of Sir 
Samuel's last office, he had no personal opportunity of as- 
certaining her state and appearances ; but, considering how 
desirable it would have been on this occasion to examine 
whether the innovations introduced in her construction 
with a view to strength had been successful, he wrote to 
the Navy Board, urging the expediency of directing that 
particular attention should be paid to the state of connection 
in which the several parts of the vessel might be found. 
He never received any reply to that letter, or could obtain 
any official account of her appearances; he therefore en- 
deavoured to obtain particulars from a shipwright officer 
(Joseph Helby), then residing near Portsmouth ; but his 
answer was, "No one can give me any information con- 
cerning her. The only information I can give respecting 
her is what I had from Sir H. Peake, in London ; he was 
at Portsmouth during her being taken to pieces ; he told 
me that her timbers and bottom were sound and good; the 
only defects were the bulkheads, which were of fir ; and 
the fir generally was perished in a great measure." " I do 
not believe she ever had any serious repairs." From this 
and other sources he understood that this vessel still exhi- 
bited proofs of the efficiency of the expedients that had 
been resorted to in her construction for giving strength ; 
while her apparent defects had arisen from the decay of 
the fir timber which had been in some parts substituted 
for oak. The perishable material, fir, had been introduced 
in consequence of the great and increasing scarcity of oak 
at the time when she was built ; and, in point of fact, that 
so perishable a material as fir should have been found to 
last for eighteen years was in itself a beneficial result of 
the experiment. 


On looking over the most authentic accounts of the 
duration of vessels of war in time of war, it appeared 
that eight years was the average. The average dura- 
tion (and always in actual service) of Sir Samuel's ex- 
perimental vessels was twelve years and a half ; that is, 
half as long again as vessels of the ordinary construction, 
although these were built of the more durable material — 
oak, whilst some very essential parts of Sir Samuel's 
were of fir. Scouted and despised as they were at first, 
they have fortunately served as models for the introduc- 
tion of some of the most important improvements that 
have yet been made in naval architecture : for example, 
diagonal braces, lined bulk-heads, metallic water tanks, 
&c. &c. 

On the 7th March, 1828, he addressed a letter to 
Mr. Croker, on the subject of the transport service, in 
which, among other suggestions, he remarked more par- 
ticularly that in times of peace, if, instead of having 
vessels for any transport or packet service, vessels of war 
were, instead of lying in ordinary, to be employed for ser- 
vices of all kinds, the annual saving would amount to 
about 200,000?. He subjoined the estimates by which 
these savings were made manifest, and added a short 
notice of some of the collateral advantages that would 
result from the adoption of his proposal. This pro- 
posal, grounded as it was on the incontrovertible evi- 
dence afforded by the estimates which he furnished, had 
its effect at the Admiralty ; and Government vessels have 
since then been more or less employed for transport and 
packet service. As yet, however, it has only been by de- 
grees, and to a limited extent, that the measure has been 

On April 13th he furnished in writing a view of savings 
that might be effected by manufacturing a great variety of 
articles on Government account, instead of procuring them 
in a manufactured state, stating the principal sources from 


which those savings would arise. Among these sources 
are command of capital at a less rate of interest than 
that at which it can be procured by private manufacturers ; 
better insurance against disuse of an article, for pro- 
curing which capital has been sunk; and the saving 
which Grovernment would derive on the breaking out 
of war from having a skeleton establishment of the best 
working hands, for which there is always abundant em- 
ployment in time of peace, and who would be ready, 
by the help of inferior hands, to carry on works to the 
extent required in war ; security against evasive construc- 
tions of the terms of contract, — for instance, in regard 
to so-called improved copper sheathing, it was stipulated 
that, should any of it be found to have decayed within 
a certain period, the contractor was to provide new 
sheathing in lieu of the defective. In such a case the 
contractor was expected to have returned a sheet of new 
for every decayed one; but instead of that, by what 
might be called a quibble on the words of the contract, 
he could only be made to return a weight of new 
equal to the weight of what remained of the corroded 

It happened that the chairman of the committee, Sir 
Henry Parnell, entertained a most decided opinion that it 
was impossible for Grovernment to mauufacture any article 
so cheap as it could be obtained by contract, so that Sir 
Samuel was not called on to give evidence on this sub- 
ject, — one on which he, of all other men, was best in- 

He again attempted to draw attention to that great 
oversight in regard to finance — the taking no account of 
the value of interest on monies expended in public works — 
an oversight which Sir Samuel had embraced every oppor- 
tunity of bringing to notice for above forty years. He 
had made his representations on the subject in a variety of 
forms. He now urged in a few short axioms: — 


" 1st. That no work should be undertaken that will not 
produce an advantage equivalent to the expense it occa- 

" 2ndly. That the advantage of a work may in all cases 
be measured by a yearly value in money, generally arith- 
metically demonstrable, when otherwise capable of easy 

" 3rdly. That it is not worth while to sink a capital on 
any public work, unless the yearly value of it, when ob- 
tained, be equal to 8 per cent, on the capital sunk, — that 
is, 5 per cent, for the simple average interest of the money 
sunk, and 3 per cent, to compensate for wear and tear of 
the work, together with the chance of its utility being 
superseded by some of the many circumstances which, at 
a future time, render works comparatively less perfect or 
less needful than at the time of their construction." 
Still his endeavours proved of no avail ; and indeed, 
up to the present moment, this great desideratum in 
the management of public money remains wholly disre- 

Sir Samuel's chief occupation for some time had been 
the preparing for the press the first of his projected naval 
essays ; and he also caused to be published several of his 
official letters, under the title of " Naval Papers." These 
publications are now out of print ; and the edition was 
but small. Many copies were distributed to present and 
former members of Administration; but they have be- 
come exceedingly scarce, although they are to be found 
in the library of the United Service Club, and some other 
public establishments ; and a critique of them appeared in 
page 306 of the first part of the "United Service Journal" 
for 1829. The appearance of that critique drew his atten- 
tion to the " United Service Journal," and observing in it 
" a biographical sketch of Paul Jones," containing many 
mis-statements, Sir Samuel furnished the editor with 


an account of the actions in the Liman, in which Paul 
Jones had so falsely ascribed to himself the glorious re- 
sult of the three actions in question. 

About this time the question happened to be mooted, 
how far one of the reasons stated for the abolition of the 
office of Inspector-General of Navy Works had been well 
founded, namely, the uncompensated expense it had oc- 
casioned ? This led to the mention of a variety of services 
which it had performed, and which were now paid for at 
a greater amount of cost, and to a calculation and state- 
ment of how far that establishment alone went, by the 
savings it had produced, towards payment of the officers in 
the Inspector-Greneral of Navy Works' office. It appeared 
that on the 1st January, 1812, the capital sunk on the metal 
mills had been all of it, by degrees, paid off by the profits 
of the mills, together with all interest and compound 
interest on that capital, as well as all debts of every 
kind ; that there then remained in hand, in money and 
money's worth, upon the premises to the value of 68,215?., 
this capital having been created for the public by the In- 
spector-Greneral of Navy Works. This sum was then taken 
as if it had been put out to interest from that time to the 
end of 1827, for the purpose of creating a fund for the 
re-establishment of that office, when the capital and in- 
terest upon it, compounded half-yearly, were found to 
amount to 1,257,6 \5l. The salaries of the Inspector- 
Greneral of Navy Works and of the officers of that office 
amounted to 3000?. a year ; a perpetual annuity to that 
amount purchased in the 3 per cent. Consols, at the then 
price (85 per cent.) would have cost 255,000/. ; so that the 
metal mills had not only provided for the re-establish- 
ment of that office in perpetuity, but had, besides, created 
a surplus of above a million. 

During the leisure of late years, Sir Samuel had re- 
flected much on the uncertainty that existed as to the 


form best suited for a navigable vessel. He had, it is true, 
so far succeeded in that which he devised for his experi- 
mental vessels, as to have rendered them in every respect 
better sea boats than any vessels with which they had been 
brought into comparison ; and he now saw, with satisfaction, 
that the best steam-boats had been constructed like his 
vessels in several particulars of form. Still, on considering 
experiments that had been made on a small scale, it seemed 
that a variety of influencing circumstances had never 
been taken into account, — such as friction on the pulleys or 
other apparatus used in measuring velocity, the effect of 
wind on the body to be moved, and the weight of the body 
itself. In regard to experiments on vessels themselves, the 
difference in speed even, consequent on form alone, re- 
mained still unascertained. 

It appeared to him that the costliness of experiments 
made by means of vessels of war must necessarily in 
future prove a bar, as it had already done, to their 
being carried to any extent, but that very important 
results might be obtained by means of models on a 
small scale. He, therefore, considered various modes of 
experimenting with this view, and devised a very simple 
and inexpensive apparatus, by means of which several im- 
portant particulars as to form might be ascertained. This 
done, he considered that, without pecuniary loss, the forms 
that had proved most advantageous in models might be 
given next to small craft ; and so the experience afforded 
by their means would furnish data to be depended on for 
improving vessels of the greatest bulk. 

Since Sir Samuel's return home, he had the gratifica- 
tion to find that much of former jealousy had worn away. 
His communications with many members of naval ad- 
ministration had been very flattering, and there appeared 
much disposition to profit by his suggestions. Place, or 
pecuniary reward for his exertions, he disclaimed ; but 


when he had devised the means for making the experi- 
ments in question, he volunteered to direct the execution 
of them. To the Navy Board, which seemed at that time 
to have it most in their power to carry out such a course 
of experiments, he addressed several papers, which deter- 
mined them to authorise the commencement, under his 
direction, of the set of experiments which he had sug- 

A considerable portion of his time was now devoted to 
the perfecting the details relative to the intended course 
of experiments, and in contriving a variety of instruments 
or meters, for measuring accurately on board ship the 
several circumstances both as influencing and indicating 
its progressive motion and direction ; he also continued to 
employ himself in writing his second Naval Essay. 

On the 7th February he addressed the Admiralty on 
the subject of the pay of the navy. He observed, that the 
plan which he now offered for the payment of the military 
branch of the service was formed on the same principles 
as that which he had proposed, thirty years before, for the 
payment of operatives engaged in the naval arsenals ; and 
that the general satisfaction which that mode had given, 
adopted as it had been for the operatives in the arsenals, 
led him to flatter himself that a similar plan for paying \\ 
the military personnel, might be thought worthy of con- 

On the 21st February, the Secretary of the Admiralty 
acquainted him that their Lordships had submitted his 
letter on this subject to the Right Honourable C. Poulett 
Thomson for his consideration and report. Sir Samuel was 
delighted at this determination, so conformable to the 
practice he had advocated of obtaining individual opinions, 
in a form which led to discussion, and the investigation of 
any measure, so as to afford just grounds either for its re- 
jection, adoption, or modification. 


The proposed experiments for ascertaining the best form 
for navigable vessels afford a striking example of the diffi- 
culties that stand in the way of making any course of ex- 
periments in naval arsenals. The Admiralty were known 
to be highly favourable to those which Sir Samuel had 
proposed. Sir Samuel, therefore, applied to the Comp- 
troller, requesting him to point out the persons to whom, 
conformably to his and the Surveyor's wishes, he should 
apply on the subject; the Comptroller, thereupon, informed 
him that application must be made to the superior au- 
thority. Sir Samuel at first intended to request Sir J. 
Graham to indicate the course which he should now pur- 
sue; but although not personally acquainted with Mr. 
Laing, of Deptford Dockyard, yet, apprised of his zeal, 
talents, and skill, he sought to induce him to join in his 
experiments; to which he readily assented. It was then 
considered whether, in compliance with custom (bad as 
that custom was), a committee should be formed to carry 
Sir Samuel's plan into practice, — this committee to con- 
sist of Sir Byam Martin, Captain Beaufort, and Mr. Laing. 
Sir Samuel, however, though he would gladly have in- 
trusted it to any one of these gentlemen, hesitated in giving 
assent to any joint assemblage of persons for the execution 
of any specific service, and was himself engaged in making- 
preparations at Mr. Maudsley's, who kindly offered the 
use of his manufactory, and incurred some expense in 
preparing models of the apparatus to be used. But Mr. 
Maudsley became seriously ill and died. Sir Samuel also 
began to suffer from the effects of bleeding, which had 
been necessary after an accident he met with during 
the preceding autumn, and his death took place on 
the 31st May, 1831, at his residence, 2 Lower Connaught 

Thus ended a career perhaps unexampled in the variety 
and extent of the improvements which he had devised dur- 



insf a Ions and active life as a naval architect, as a civil 
engineer, as a mechanist, and especially as the contriver 
of regulations to correct abuses in the civil service of the 





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prior to due date 


•: \ n ' ..:■ 


s~* "* 

IUN I 9 '- 

JAN 7 2000 

APR 2 2 200 1 


JUL 2 5 2005